By David Hickey
There is a big difference between actively speaking to your customers and being heard.
Many businesses still long to see their headshot in their daily newspaper and most fail to realise that the print mastheads no longer drive public opinion the way they once did. Yes they do matter, but not in isolation. Changing media consumption habits in Australia reveal that businesses looking to grow their community should pay more attention than ever to online and social media chatter when developing their business strategy.
A new study by Telsyte on the media consumption habits of Australians reveals that one in three Aussies regularly reads news first on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. On top of that, almost 60% of Australians over the age of 16 believe online news has become more influential than print. There’s a big, wide, digital world of information out there and those that know how to use it will find themselves with an unfair advantage over their slower competitors.
Digital and social media must be central to your customer engagement strategy. No business, no matter how small or big, can afford to be invisible online or on platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Not only does this limit how your customers can reach you, it means you can’t engage with your customers either. Television and print are important, but they don’t offer the two-way engagement necessary today to build true brand loyalty. Ultimately, you’re missing out on valuable insights into your position in the market that you just can’t glean elsewhere. Businesses need to be listening to what the community is saying, in real time, about them, their customers and the industry they operate in. After all, online news feeds Twitter but Twitter also feeds the news.
For those who don’t know where to start, here are some ways your small business can engage with the digitally savvy customer and use these online and social insights to shape a smarter business strategy.
Harness social media and news insights to understand your customers
There are billions of conversations happening across social media channels every day, many of which impact you, your competitors and your industry — and you need to be able to respond.
The first step to engaging with your customer base is to be on top of the news that they are talking about. What are the key topics of conversation? Take, for example, a small company that produces a range of pressed juices — what are people in their market saying about cleanses, the importance of exercise vs diet, the legitimacy of ‘toxins’ or even the recently announced sugar tax in the UK? What are they saying about bigger competitors? Tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram comments tell you what your customers, and future customers, care about. And what they care about (and post about) matters.
Facebook is your friend. Don’t shy away from direct interaction
Customers today expect a two-way interaction — and a fairly immediate one. Creating a community for your business or product requires a conversation and many of your customers will expect to be able to raise customer service or product issues via Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram these days, whether you like it or not.
Embrace these fast, direct and meaningful channels of interaction and use them to make improvements where you can. Make sure your brand personality shines through on social media but take questions and complaints seriously. With the right dedication, these channels can really boost brand loyalty.
Go digital to amplify your message globally
For a small business, the global reach of digital content can have direct implications for your local business strategy. From day one, you can be a global brand. Twitter and Instagram, for example, have more than 300 million monthly active users. Facebook has around 1.6 billion. Your biggest customer advocates or influencers may be outside the local market. If you’re not paying attention to conversations happening online, you could miss out on major opportunities to enter new markets and communicate to a massive audience at very little cost.
Knowing who your influencers are (both communities and individuals) is key and will help you allocate your resources most effectively to ensure the best return on any investment. Traditional mass media messaging is still popular amongst businesses, but it’s losing its influence as customers spend more time online in their personal and professional lives. In fact, according to the Telyste study, more than half of Australians above 16 years of age turn to the internet as their main source of entertainment! That’s a lot of eyes glued to the computer or smartphone screen. This is not to say that traditional media messaging has become redundant – print media and broadcast television still play a significant role, although with reduced influence.
Understanding the rapidly changing media consumption habits in Australia is critical to any business that wants to engage in two-way conversations with its customers. A digitally savvy approach will keep your business agile and adaptable to new challenges and opportunities, setting you up for fast growth and increased brand awareness. Knowing how to harness social media insights to detect key trends, understand your position in the market, and reach the right influencers, will give you the upper-hand over your competitors and help you scale your business fast, and in the right direction.
David Hickey is director of media intelligence company Meltwater in Australia and New Zealand.