By now, I hope you are convinced that every business (with very few exceptions) can benefit from engaging in Social Media. If you are convinced, you are likely still skeptical of the measurable impact of such efforts or return on the investment for staff and contractors to be engaging in such work, populating the internet with references to your company.
An immediate benefit of engaging in social media is the ability for companies and organizations to listen to what their customers are saying about them. Such insight is instrumental in forming marketing, management, product development and public relations with real data gathered relatively cheaply compared to conventional market research.
Start by identifying who your customers are and what venues are utilized for their communication about products and issues that matter to them, then try a mix of the methods below to gather feedback.
That’s right, the good ol’ survey aint dead yet. The reason why is that aside from meeting personally with each of your customers, it is one of the best ways to get an answer to a specific question. Here are a few resources for managing surveys online.
Gravity Forms – For users of WordPress, Gravity Forms provides an easy to use form building utility with a variety of options to create workflows and store results. Pop a survey on the front page of your website or sidebar of your blog and and start gathering insight immediately. Licences are $39 for an individual site, but included with any site from FourTen Creative.
Google Docs – Did you know that you can gather survey data through a Google Docs spreadsheet? This is especially powerful with easily quantifiable results to move your data quickly from gathering to a display of results. Here is a tutorial to get you started.
Limesurvey.org – Lime Survey is a powerful open source survey software package for administering and monitoring your own surveys. If you are going to be engaging in a surveys on a large scale or want to manage a lot of data simultaneously, Lime Survey may be worth the time investment.
Find out what people are saying about your company. Aside from a blind googling of your company name (which can be useful too), you can target areas of the internet for activity mentioning your name or products. Try these easy tools for free.
Google Alerts – That’s right, the most powerful search engine on the planet working for you (for free) to monitor segments of the internet. Google Alerts offers the ability to target terms and email you directly when your company name is mentioned in that venue. Give it a try.
Twitter Search – People are saying a lot on twitter these days. Rather than only getting an answer to a specific question, put your ear to the twitter rails and prepare to be overwhelmed with feedback about your products or services. Just go to Twitter and search. Couldn’t be simpler. The only hitch here is that people actually have to be talking about your products. If they aren’t then maybe the next section will jump-start and online discussion for you.
Create An Online Community
Some people won’t engage in the online discussion about your organization until a venue is provided. People used to go to great pains to create fan pages and community forums, but increasingly companies are taking it upon themselves to create these outlets to draw in their customers. Below are some of the myriad ways to create online community around your organization.
Blog – That’s right, the obvious step you haven’t staffed up for yet. Start blogging openly about your company and products and solicit comments. Leave those comments open and allow positive and negative feedback to stand, showing your customers you want to hear everything they have to say. WordPress is obviously a fantastic option for this.
Facebook – If you don’t have a Facebook page yet, get on it! You can use the many applications to mirror your existing social media investments in your blog, press releases and Twitter. Use Facebook to drive traffic back to your blog or other venue for continued feedback or simply monitor the input of those in your Facebook network with their search tool. You’ll gain insight into your customers in a way surveys can’t touch.
BuddyPress – WordPress offers the ability to create a network of blogs from one installation called WordPress MU (Multi User). BuddyPress takes this one step further and transforms WPMU into a social network for internal or external use. It will take a time investment to set it up, but if your audience is looking for a way to connect to other costumers or members of your organization, it would be well worth it for the chance to engage with your core customers and further any of the efforts listed above.
Have you had any particular success with these methods? Leave a comment and let everyone know what has worked for you.