​How to leverage the next social trend to better connect with your customer

Experts discuss which social media strategies marketers should watch out for and why

As social media becomes an integral part of everyday lives, the pressure is on marketers to adapt to the latest trends and find more powerful and authentic ways to connect with customers.

We speak to social media, marketing and brand experts as they reveal what they believe marketers should look out for when leveraging social engagement and influence.

A more connected way to influence customers

CEO of Wi-Fi provider PoweredLocal, Michael Jankie, says one of the challenges is the proliferation of ad blockers, with advertisers now having to pivot their conception of advertising and accept the consumer’s desire to block ads.

“While social media has done great things for personalisation, consumers still hate being targeted and tracked,” he said. “Until recently, this was only a problem for desktop browsing adverts, but with both Apple and Google allowing third-party ad blocking, we’re going to see a forced shift in campaign spending from ads to other means.”

To circumvent this trend, Jankie believes marketers should embrace existing customers as the new social marketing tool.

“We’ll see more technology that automates sponsored individuals' posts rather than marketers paying for performance-based adverts,” he says. “Market leaders will be working out how to get everyday influencers to promote their brands as a referral rather than relying on advertisements. I certainly don’t mean paying a Kardashian $100,000 to promote your line of Activewear, that is also game over. What I mean is offering fame to your current customers to get them to post content themselves.”

Founder and CEO of Social Soup, Sharyn Smith, agrees. The influencer and brand connecting agency startup works across many categories such as technology, FMCG, retail, finance, pharmaceuticals, automotive and government and has a growing list of clients including Lion Nathan, Panasonic, Nestle, Arnotts, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, Westfield, Bankwest and Commonwealth Bank.

From Smith’s experience in connecting brands to influencers, she sees marketers already moving away from paid endorsements to high reach personalities.

“Consumer are tuning out from blatant sponsored content in social media,” she says. “Trust is the new currency of social and marketers need to find ways to authentically tap into powerful recommendations.”

According to Smith, the next social trend for marketers will be to focus on mid-tier influencers across key social channels such as Instagram.

“These people have a larger social following of 1000+ but have not commercialised [required payment]. They are willing to work with and amplify brands they love and have aligned values,” she says. “This mid-tier are emerging as the next influencers and brands can partner with them to boost their success while gaining impactful exposure. We are seeing incredible growth in our business around the segment we call ‘Social Boosters’ as they retain their authenticity but can reach larger audiences.”

One company working hard to connect its brand with influencers is HotelQuickly. The online site has worked with agencies like Kingfluencer.com that facilitate brand-influencer collaboration and help streamline negotiations.

“We’re using social media networks to re-engage with our audience, to stay top of mind, to inspire people to travel, and to share their experiences,” says HotelQuickly’s CMO and co-founder, Christian Mischler. “Secondly, social media has also become an important customer service channel. At HotelQuickly, social media is deeply integrated with our customer service team.”

Social as an online ecosystem

Mischler says marketers should no longer see social media as an isolated space, but deeply integrated in almost any aspect of online interaction between brands and customers.

“Engagement is becoming immediate and mobile, either directly through chats on websites or apps, or circumvented via the likes of Twitter,” he says. “The immediacy of content is a big challenge and opportunity for marketers, whether through networks like Snapchat, Periscope, or Meerkat - it requires a new strategy to content development.”

CEO of self-storage purveyor Spacer, Mike Rosenbaum, believes the days of pushing products onto consumers are well and truly over in the social media age.

“Consumers don't like to be spammed, or have product shoved down their throats, particularly when they are looking at photos of their kids on social media,” he says. “You need to provide a variety of message and imagery - if it didn't work the first time, it won't work the second.

“Be careful what you say with social media - the world is watching and there is a permanent record for all to see. And your social profile is only as good as the friends you keep. Be responsive - the whole point of social media is to be on-call 24 hours, seven days a week.”

Rosenbaum suggests marketers should use online reputation platforms such as ERated.co, which aggregate existing Web profiles and historical seller ratings such as EBay, Facebook and Twitter into a single profile.

“At Spacer, we utilise this portal to screen and vet users of our marketplace,” he says. “I believe this trend will move quickly into business ratings, aggregating content from sites such as TripAdvisor and ProductReview into a single ‘trust’ rating.”

From a big picture perspective, CMO Council senior vice-president, Liz Miller, says social connections need to add to a brand’s picture of the customer in order to connect with them.

“Take a long, hard, honest look at what you are actually putting into your social channels,” she advises. “Then take off your marketer hat and put you normal person using social hat on. Start asking new questions like if I was the customer, is this the experience I am looking for in this channel? Just because you can push or create something in a social channel does not mean it is relevant, appropriate or valued by your customer. There is nothing worse than creating cool despite the customer.”

Miller notes social is highly visual and if you aren’t looking at images, video or some form of graphic enhancement to your social experiences, you are missing a key aspect of how people like to engage.

“But remember, you need to keep it authentic and appropriate if you want to connect with your customer,” she says. “Instead of just showing people the final product, think of giving them a sneak peek into what it took to get to a final product.

“Social gives people an opportunity to feel like they are part of the process, even if that just means getting a behind the curtain look into the product — and especially getting to see the people behind the product.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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