Does Your Brand Have Friends?

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  November 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Did you know that more than 1 billion people – that’s more than 70 percent of the population of Internet users – use social networks? And did you know that nearly half of them use Facebook (News - Alert) every day? 

Do you know what else half of them do as part of their social networking activities? They connect to brands like yours (or your competitors), and 36 percent have posted some form of content on their social networks about those brands (according to InSites Consulting).

Does that mean your business must have a social media presence? No – but you really don’t have a reason not to, if you follow the tried and true mantra of advertising where your customers are. Today, that is less about physical geography than it is about cyber geography. In other words, if you’re going to market, do it where you will be visible to your target customers – the world of social media.

Mobility is changing the game even more, providing access to customers when they are more likely to respond to messaging. In August of this year, more than 72 million mobile users visited social networking sites on their mobile devices, an increase of 37 percent from August, 2010, according to comScore (News - Alert). About one-third of the mobile social networkers received some form of digital offer during those visits, with more than a quarter of them clicking on an ad from a social networking site.

The message is clear: Social networkers are engaging with more than their friends and family – they are engaging with many of their preferred brands as well, effectively becoming volunteer spokespeople.

When you consider that most new mobile devices are equipped with GPS capabilities, the potential for growing your social media-based business opportunity increases exponentially, as a high percentage of users will provide their location data in exchange for valuable digital offers.

I recently spoke with Sandro Tavares, head of business intelligence and analyst relations, business solutions, at Nokia Siemens Networks (News - Alert) about this very topic. He agreed that businesses don’t “have to” engage via social media (read: they don’t have to if they want to risk falling behind).

“It’s all about keeping customers happy,” he explained. “And now that they’re happy, let’s sell more to them.”

While that may seem a bit forward, it’s the name of the game, and the easiest sales are to those in need and those who have already had positive experiences (fans). In fact, in increasingly competitive environments, one of the best strategies for building brand loyalty is to create greater dependence on your brand.

“The only way for CSPs to differentiate is to provide a high quality experience, especially with high value subscribers who can churn easily,” noted Tavares.

Nokia Siemens Networksis helping its network operator customers differentiate their service and provide that differentiated experience by helping strengthen subscriber relationships through social networking.

With the Facebook app for self care, operators are not only meeting subscribers where they engage on a regular basis already – so subscribers are in an environment on their own terms – they also give them the ability to resolve situations on their own, including purchasing additional services from within the Facebook app.Basically, the app is connected to the operator’s self-care portal and, when subscribers “like” the operators, they gain access to a number of features and offers based on their behaviors and preferences.

Orange (News - Alert) Switzerland was able to increase FCR by 50 percent by providing these kinds of social media integrated services.

Despite the larger number of social media users who follow brands, the fact is they are also apt to stop that practice given a period of inactivity. In fact, inactivity is the most popular reason for dropping or de-friending a person or brand.

Social networking hasn’t randomly become popular. As with anything else that grows in popularity, it’s about benefits. On a personal level the benefit is being able to share and have things shared with you. On the brand level, it’s about getting the scoop on the latest products, earning additional discounts, getting special Facebook coupons, etc.

Considering these facts, no, you don’t “have” to have a social media presence. Then again, consider that your competitors do.

Erik Linask is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page. Follow Erik on Twitter (News - Alert) @elinask.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi