5 Ways to Engage Social and Mobile Customers

by Eric Tsai

If you’ve been keeping up with the current marketing trends, you should be in the process of exploring how to utilize social media to benefit your business.

By now, most of the “how to use” social media content is everywhere especially from reputation resources such as Mashable, Social Media Examiner or Twitip to name a few.

While most large organizations such as Fortune 500 companies are slow in adopting social media, many have started pilot programs to experiment with this new tool.  Brands such as Dell, Coke Cola, Ford, Starbucks, Zappos, Best Buy and even sports league like NBA and NFL have found rapid growth by allowing fans to engage directly with athletes.

Share content that people find useful and want to share with others is the new mantra for new media marketing.

Particularly small businesses have found social media as a way to demonstrate leadership and command influence in niche communities.

The latest data from the Small Business Success Index shows that “Social media adoption by small businesses doubled from 12% in 2008 to 24% in 2009. The biggest expectation small business owners have from social media is expanding external marketing and engagement, including identifying and attracting new customers, building brand awareness and staying engaged with customers.”

The small and medium size businesses (SMBs) get it.  They are using this recession as an opportunity to connect and expand their sphere of influence.

While social media is still in its early phase, the business benefits of social networks are very real.

Every small business is looking to integrate “social” into their eCommerce sites, direct mail campaigns, webinars, blogs and SEO tactics hoping to build top-of-mind brand awareness.

Certainly you’ve heard that it’s about conversation, customer engagement and providing value.

However; it’s also quickly becoming a spam destination and experienced users have started to be very selective on who to connect and how to communicate.

Sure, you can learn all the tricks and tactics in getting followers on Twitter, ramp up fans from Facebook and connects with hundreds of professionals through Linkedin but the real engagement is when you involve the entire community to take action and interact with your brand.

Understand Social Media Users

Social media is about conversations. It is important to understand why and what kind of conversation users are more incline to engage themselves in.

Accordingly to the latest survey of social media users conducted by Crowd Science, “Users want to be heard. Overall, 45% reported liking when others notice them—leading some to stretch the truth or reveal too much personal information… But 36% believed others are simply interested in what they have to say. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to marketers, who know many users will tell all their contacts about good (and bad) experiences with products and services.”

Detailed Study Results

These new social customers will look up Yelp for reviews and tweet customer service for support.

It all boils down to the fact that every single customer from B2B to B2C has increased their influence throughout the buying process, gaining control of your brand’s perceived value, commanding more attention to satisfy their needs.

Lior Arussy wrote an excellent article in CRM magazine describes exactly that: “There’s a significant gap between the transaction as perceived by the employee and the outcome value as perceived by the customer. In short, what you sell is not what they buy.”

The truth is, even if you have the most market share in your industry it doesn’t translate to loyalty, and loyalty generates word-of-mouth.  This is the reason why customers today are able to demand more for less, a loyal customer is worth more than a passive one and brands are fighting to gain trust.  With the space getting crowded, consumers are already flooded with choices not to mention most don’t have the desire to spend in the first place.

In an effort to drive business success, companies must become more customer-centric by focusing on the needs of each individual customer to earn their trust and meet their needs.

More social means more conversations and when you add in the increasingly mobile factor, you have a whole new dynamic to reposition your brand to deliver a differentiated value proposition.

Here are 5 ways to help you address the increasingly social and mobile customer needs.

1. Start with local

Just because the internet can reach across the world doesn’t mean you need to do an all out global campaign.

Often you will find hyperlocal campaigns to be more cost-effective and can benefit from hybrid campaign where you combine online with offline promotions.

Find mobile advertising vendors that can help you target your local customers to drive traffic to your local stores or promote an event.

2. Provide free resources

With the emerging trend of the Freemium business model, free is the new standard.

In fact, it gives your prospects a reason to give you the time of the day so you have an opportunity to earn their trust.  Establish yourself as a resource by sharing your knowledge.

Add value to the conversation by offering your thoughts and commenting on blog posts that your audience read, tweet resourceful information from your Twitter account, or by answering a question on LinkedIn Answers.

Free resource such as buying guide, e-books, product recommendations from third parties or even free trials on your product are great ways to nurture leads with drip marketing campaigns.

According to the recently released ChoiceStream 2009 Personalization Survey, “65% of m-commerce shoppers indicate that they would buy more products from their mobile devices if it were easier to find products on them from trusted retailers.”

3. Mark it easy to pass along

A simple word-of-mouth tactics that’s often overlooked as companies look to pack in all the features and benefits of their products and solutions on their brochures and websites.

Go with something that’s easy to pass along without making it difficult for your customers to explain to their social network.

Just like Twitter with 140 character limitations, mobile devices have limited viewing real estate so make sure your messages are simple and to the point.

Provide a link to your content if you have more content to disclose, but make sure the link is short by using a URL shortener.

4. Use location based advertising (LBA)

Since people almost always have their mobile phone with them, LBA provides highly targeted reach.

And because customers are in control on how they receive ads on their mobile devices, customers receive more personalized, relevant information in real-time resulting in greater customer satisfaction to help you build brand awareness, create loyalty, and drive purchase decision.

Keep in mind that successful LBA is a permission based so establishing trust will be important and a privacy policy must be in place.

5. Tell a story, create passion

– Reporters loves a great story because they know readers love them too.  Often times a great story can get viral because well, it’s a great story!

The increasingly social web has vastly increased the fragmentation of media. Leverage sequential advertising to tell a story and lead your prospects down a path of related messages with continuity of the call-to-action.

Each engagement touch point should evoke a compelling response with fresh information and unique impression.

Don’t forget to keep any eye on the emerging trend of Augmented Reality on the social web and on mobile platforms:


Home Depot

Esquire Magazine

The Take away: The real challenge for company embracing social media is finding the sweet spot that fits their business needs without draining their resources.

The key to success is to understand and measure the direct business impact of social media campaigns and identify the gaps between the customer experience and expectations as we continue to become more social and mobile.

Ask yourself, what do you want to achieve with social media?

Where do you see your brand go in the next 18 months?

What do you think?

Are you looking to do any mobile marketing in 2010?

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to engage social and mobile customers.

UPDATE 1 (2/24/2010)

Business Insider just published an new research from the Federal Communications Commission indicating that 86% of American adults now own cellphones.

Detail FCC Broadband Adoption Study 2010 below:


The Long Tail of Trust in New Media Marketing

by Eric Tsai

In today’s fragmented media world where we all have some attention deficit in our busy lives, there are simply too many sources of information thus finding a filter that we trust is extremely important.

Most people tend to prefer value, look for key opinion leaders and trust one-on-one communication sources.

Accordingly to a recent “Purchaser Influence Survey” by EXPO provided to eMarketer, over 92% of US mom internet users trust peer review more than manufacturer’s brand information.

This data should not be a surprise because if you want recommendations for a restaurant or suggestions on buying a new cell phone, you’re pretty much going to first ask your friends.

If you’re really serious about the purchase, you will do your “homework” first by reading bunch of online reviews from Yelp to Amazon before accessing your trusted sources.

Thanks to the increasingly social web, everyone can have a voice in their sphere of influence.

As a result word-of-mouth has become the ultimate marketing arsenal for marketers to tap into their loyal customers and advocates to help spread their marketing messages through what it’s called earned media.

Earned Media vs Paid Media

As opposed to paid media where publicity are gained through advertising, earned media usually are from real people, not marketers, which explains why consumers tend to trust them more.

It’s indicative from the survey conducted by Synovate for word-of-mouth ad network PostRelease, over 50% of the word-of-mouth activity was to help a friend or family member with a purchase decision, as well as sharing information they found on the web offline.

While these finding are insightful, it’s simply a confirmation that earned media is what’s working and will continue to lead the way as we crawl out of this recession.

Obviously, there are other factors that contributes to the buying decision that aligns with the “four Ps of marketing” (price, product, promotion and placement), but there is a definite shift in the perception of value that builds on trust.

So how what does trust mean to brands today?

According to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer from PR firm Edelman, transparent and honest practices and trustworthiness are extremely important while financial return have fallen below those factors.

One thing I must point out is that these data can be misleading because financial returns actually increased but have fallen behind other factors so there is merely a shift in value perception.

We’ve gone from push advertising to social influence marketing.  Online users have learned to focus on content and ignore online banners (banner blindness) simply because display focus too much on getting attention and have failed to deliver.

The concept of getting attention as a way to create brand awareness is being seen as noise which leads to resistance.

People have caught on to the fact that more marketers are increasingly behind influential bloggers, social media rock stars and even popular portals by endorsing their content diluting the credibility of peer-to-peer networks.

Long Tail of Trust

In the ear of new media, brands have quickly learned social marketing is build on the idea that people trust their friends more than they trust authorities, but on the other hand, consumers also start to question the intend and authenticity of their social networks.

As I’ve mentioned previous in “7 Keys to Creating Social Media Strategy for Your Brand”, social proof plays a key factor as a weapon of influence, the challenge for marketers is to earn trust as skepticism remains about how long trust will last.

When it comes to trust and brand loyalty there is no silver bullet, but knowing what value proposition to focus on and how to make adjustments can help marketers to acquire high level of trust over time.

If you truly want to earn the trust of your audience, don’t get sucked into the numbers game.

How many Twitter followers, Facebook fans or Linkedin connections you have on is far less important than how you interact with them.

Instead of concentrating on how many social network participants you have, try instead to gauge success on how engage they are with your brand.

The take away: When it comes to trust, it pays to earn it over time via high targeted more personalized channel that drives engagement and loyalty.

Mass media may reach a wider audience faster but the conversion rate is low and the experience becomes de-personalize.

There is still a place for mass media, but there is growing concerns over the value and ROI in the long run.

Moving forward companies should focus on shifting towards a customer centric strategy that retains long term customer loyalty as a sustainable competitive advantage.

Unless your brand connects with the customer, your chance of earning trust will be slim.

The role of marketing is only going to become even more important and integrated closely with customer interactions.

Get back to the basics in the context of customer feedback.

It should be more about starting the conversation to understand the customer’s point of view in an holistic effort to co-create value that defines your brand strategy.