Monday, November 28, 2011

Anatomy of a Social Customer

The widespread adoption of social media has altered the way customers are communicating with businesses and has facilitated the shift of a business-centric marketplace to a customer-centric one. Your once static patrons have become dynamic social customers. This new breed of customer is shaping and more often then not, leading the way we market our businesses, products and services.

Are you aware of the defining characteristics of Social Customers?
  • They are hyper-connected - The smartphone or internet-ready device is the constant companion of this audience. The Social Customer treats a smartphone more like a pocket computer then a phone.
  • They readily reach out to peers and influencers - Social media give customers wide spread access to the opinions and experiences of their family and friends, people they trust. Let's be honest, people care about what others think and certainly like to draw upon the past experiences of those they know. So if three of their friends tell the Social Customer they love a particular product, the customer may be a bit more inclined to buy it.
  • They are constantly researching - Review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google Places, etc., offer customers the opportunity to voice their praises and complaints of a product, service or business for future customers to read and evaluate. The good, the bad and the ugly about past customers' experiences is available for research and review.
  • They are share what they think of you - It's not uncommon for Social Customers to use the very sites where they researched your business to also trumpet their thoughts about your business. The beauty of many of these tools is the fact that you can respond to these questions, comments and concerns quite expediently. If a Social Customer lodges a complaint via social networks and review sites, you can respond accordingly, too.
  • They expect brands to engage them - Due to the real-time nature of social media and the precedent set by many businesses of near instant response to customer feedback, many Social Customers are expecting the same of all brands they patron. They want the information and response they desire when they want it.
  • They control the purchasing cycle - The business no longer tells the customer when it's time to buy, the customer tells the business when they're ready to buy. When groups of Social Customers have the ability to band together online in favor of or against a product or service, that collective voice has strong influence over a their extended network of influence. If a large enough group finds disfavor with your product or service, watch out! It could be catastrophic to the life cycle of that product or service.
Keep in mind, these are general characteristics. Each industry and sector will have niche demographics specific to its audience. Don't let this untethered communication access get the best of you. Focused research, a strong strategy and a dedicated effort on the part of the business will assist with interacting with the Social Customer at the speed of social media! The way we communicate with current and potential customers has been revolutionized. Social customers are at the helm and businesses need to have their proverbial finger on the pulse of what's driving their audience.

What strategy have you developed or steps are you taking to learn about the characteristics of your Social Customers?

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