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Design Social Media Conversations to Solve Customers’ Problems

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RISMedia, June 13, 2011— (EMC)—The simple fact is that the gurus are wrong: Social media marketing isn’t a revolution, it’s a chance at evolution.

Social media challenges marketers to design conversations in ways that solve customers’ problems, not reinvent themselves, their businesses or marketing itself. Social media success depends on planning and executing ways to solve customers’ problems. The answer to selling more with social tools is founded in sparking conversations worth having—interactions that solve customers’ problems and prompt more questions.

“This idea that conversation has an innate value is simply incorrect,” says author, speaker and leading branding consultant Jonathan Salem Baskin. “It doesn’t. It never did.”

Baskin claims being relevant matters now more than ever. He also says staying relevant is the big opportunity social media presents. But Baskin warns that too many marketers are looking at customer conversations in a vacuum and not as an ongoing experience. That’s an important point, because when your business is relevant to consumers, it’s better equipped to help them understand their problems more clearly.

Think about your traditional marketing successes. It’s likely many of them help consumers become better equipped to find the right solutions. They’re more likely to return to your store, branch or website for more answers, products and services.

Social Media Is Old School

Pioneers like Anchor Bank, Avaya and Jones Lang LaSalle are following customers, not trends. Their customers signal the “when, where, why and how” that powers technology decision making. These businesses are translating customers’ needs and responding by scratching their itches—and in the process earning more transactions. They’re helping customers navigate themselves toward needed answers. Yes, with new tools, but in old ways.

Brainstorm gestures for your company that help solve your customers’ problems and make products more relevant. Start in areas of strength. For instance, AnchorBank focuses on helping customers get out of debt, learn about appropriate sources of financing, and prepare their “money lives” for divorces or marriages.

Use social tools like Facebook to solve problems and lead customers toward answers. Begin by asking yourself, “What are customers demonstrating a need for in social spaces right now?” That includes your storefront, if you have one. Ask yourself, “What questions do customers have that we can answer in the form of a blog post or Facebook response?”

Consider prioritizing those questions asked most often. Then invent ways to take action where customers guide themselves toward products. Think like a designer. Make each social marketing tactic “scratch customers’ itches.” Consider mixing in promotions that create opportunities to connect those itches (e.g., problems, urges) to products. Choose your technology or social space based on observable customer behavior within it. Stack the deck in your favor for success.

Jeff Molander is adjunct professor, digital marketing at Loyola University Business School , a public speaker and author of “Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell. ” Jeff blogs at www.offthehookblog.com. He can be reached at jeff@jeffmolander.com.

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