Later this month I’ll be speaking at the OPASTCO 2010 Summer Convention and Tradeshow. OPASTCO is a trade organization that represents locally owned, independent telephone companies. My session covers how telephone companies can leverage Social Media in their overall marketing strategy.
At first thought, it might seem like a telephone company and Social Media Marketing are an odd pairing. Certain businesses tend to gravitate more toward Social Media than others. For example, a local eating establishment can gain a following by tweeting daily lunch or dinner specials. A major retailer can generate buzz by rewarding Facebook fans with coupons and free stuff. But, people tend to think of their local telephone company as stodgy and behind the times. Sometimes that impression is correct. It doesn’t need to be that way.
Social Media is really just another arrow in the marketing quiver. Of course, it was not too long ago that any kind of marketing was foreign to a phone company, so there may be a feeling of resistance in taking a step into what seems like social media mayhem. But, marketing through Social Media is a great way for any service provider to gain new customers, boost brand awareness and increase customer loyalty.
Thou shalt not sell (too much)
There’s a cardinal rule that states social media is not about selling. This is true in a sense, but it’s really no different with snail mail, email, or the telephone. Selling is not the primary use of those mediums, either. People don’t like opening a bunch of junk mail, sifting through spam, or being interrupted by unsolicited calls at home. But, they will tolerate a certain amount of marketing communication from companies they do business with, or that they have an interest in—as long as it’s not excessive.
Social media is no different in that aspect. But, it does differ in one very significant way. With social media, an individual actually chooses who they connect with and what messages they see. They will quickly unfollow or block a company that only sends self-promoting messages, and will tend to view that organization less favorably. Conversely, they will follow companies that regularly provide good content and other useful information, and will view those companies more favorably. Plus, they will forgive the occasional promotional message, and are more likely to read and act on those messages if the right balance is struck between good content, active relationship building and promotional activity.
Building brand awareness and loyalty
Every message you send will reinforce your brand in the mind of the consumer, whether you tweet a link to an interesting web site, or post pictures from a community event on your Facebook page. Get social, and interact with your fans and followers. Customers will feel like they have a stronger connection with your company, and will be less likely to leave when a competitor knocks on their door with some new offer or lower price.
Enhancing your level of service
Social Media provides another way for you to actively reach out and help customers by using social media channels as another avenue for customer support. Let your subscribers know they can contact you on Twitter and Facebook. Actively listen, and offer a hand if you hear of a customer having an issue. Providing this extra level of customer service will not only give your subscribers one more reason to stay with your service, but it will also help you leverage positive word-of-mouth into new business.
For more information on getting started in Social Media, see these earlier posts: