Thursday, August 14, 2014

Using Social Media to Converse with Customers

Relationship marketing is still a new concept that hasn’t  yet been explored to its fullest extent. The purpose of relationship marketing is to ensure customer retention and satisfaction by fostering conversations about products and services. A paper by Jung, et. al. (2013) discusses how relationship marketing can improve upon value and retention by augmenting traditional advertising methods through the use of informal conversation.

Relationship marketing is still a somewhat unstructured approach lacking a cohesive theoretical model. Those models are in the process of development. The goal is to improve customer satisfaction, improve relationships and foster an important message but how that is done in an effective manner is difficult to define. 

Getting right into the middle of people’s online conversations certainly has its advantages in changing the nature of those conversations. It is a direct focus tactic that provides a level of debate and discussion about the products and services to help raise social awareness. What people say and believe about products impacts its value. 

People are rightfully distrustful of companies that engage in their conversations using social media as their spin is nearly always pro company and pro buy more products. Consumers don’t always respond well to misinformation and may retaliate through argumentation, spreading misinformation, giving negative feedback that spreads. 

Where I have seen this successfully work is on topics related to auto parts where many options are available. The marketer may not be selling a specific product but could be selling a solution to a problem. For example, your car won’t start and you need a battery cable. A marketer could join the discussion and point out different brands of cables and where they can be bought. Solving a customer problem. 

Others may open up Facebook and Twitter pages and allow customers to ask questions and debate related topics. As the customer becomes engage it is possible for the business to help them become aware of the options and offers. They build a rapport and conversation around particular topics and issues. 

The authors found that the positive benefits of relationship marketing far outweighed the detractors. They acknowledge that the use in the hotel industry is more pronounced than other industries and offers unique opportunities to connect with customers. Multiple channels can be used in sequence to engage customers more often. Academic theories are still developing and growing and are in more need as the Internet speeds up connectivity and social media sites that can connect customers with companies. 

Jung, et. al. (2013). Online social networking: relationship marketing in UK hotels. Journal of Marketing Management, 29 (3/4)

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