James Biley asks....Is embracing social media one of your 2016 resolutions?

If so, you've just taken the first step in promoting your business to a wider market

During the course of this year, I will be using my #BeMoreSocial column –  focusing specifically on the property sector - to guide you through the social media channels available to you, identifying those that best fit your audience and your brand.  I will look at the best ways to connect with your customer; allowing for a more interactive service and ultimately helping develop and deliver a better experience, product and service. You'll be amazed at the power of positive social engagement!

Every company has something to offer, whether it is tangible or service-led and there is now a strong appetite for businesses to instantly connect with customers.  Making your brand visible is important and I see a lot of start-up companies thinking that the moment they are ready to trade, have a website and logo, they simply must be visible on every single social media channel in order to emphasise that they are truly established. Sitting in traffic behind a van crowded with social media channel logos, I recently wondered to myself if that company chose the size of their vehicle because it was appropriate for the job intended or because it allowed for the maximum advertising space!

The advent of online media has engendered a fear that not being in the correct 'social space' may be detrimental to your business: people get so caught up in the race for technology they don't stop to think what's most effective for them or how they will manage the interaction once they are in touch with their customers. So should you be on every single social channel to show you're cutting edge? In fact, quite the reverse is true.

First, think what you actually wish to achieve. Do you want to showcase your services or present your products? Are you looking to encourage customer feedback or do you wish to make it easier for your customers to reach you for assistance at any point during the customer journey? Where are your customers located?

Each of these reasons for engaging with social media is equally valid but they require a different approach – and a specific social channel to best service your needs. Being smart and selecting an appropriate channel may just help to put you ahead of the competition. Technology moves fast and embracing it effectively can be strategically advantageous. Also, if you recognise a service issue before a customer does, you've got the ability to effect change quickly. 

Here’s an example.  At the ARMA conference in October last year, Gavin Esler spoke about 'brand trust'. It was an interesting topic and one that prompted some conversation.  Trust in any product or service is hugely important. If there's a lack of trust it's unlikely a customer will return or engage in the first place.  Now, if you attended my #BeMoreSocial seminars in July last year you may remember I showed what Mercedes did to allay any possible customer fears over vehicle servicing. What they did was simply to take away the mystery and perceived distrust (apologies to anyone in the motor trade reading this - bear with me) of vehicle servicing by sending their customers a quick video clip shot on a mobile phone by the mechanics servicing their vehicle. Simple? Yes. Brilliant?  I think so. What it does is instil trust and ultimately educate and engage with the customer in a quick, easy and relatively low-tech but very effective manner.

Now, Mercedes probably isn't going to share every customer’s video on social media, but their customers just might. If we are sent something personalised we often want to share it with all our friends; we can't help it, it's human nature and the fastest way to do this is online.

The ease with which these videos can be uploaded means it's almost instant and you will soon see them pop up on Facebook timelines. That's brand promotion you can't easily buy and reaches out to an audience you may not be able to access yourself.  Coupled with promoting a positive part of a company’s service you can't really go wrong.  

So, take a leaf out of Mercedes’ book and think of ways that you can embrace technology to engage with people and promote what you do. If you've found a new way to #BeMoreSocial with your customers share it with me and you may just get a name-check here too.