Social media gold: 3 ways to engage customers

Connecting with customers in the digital age presents a range of challenges for marketers as they seek to get to grips with new technologies.

One thing that is clear, however, is the majority of businesses are placing their trust in social media. Research by BIA/Kelsey has found that 74.5 per cent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) use at least one channel to promote their business.

During the 12 months to July 2014, SMEs also spent 21.4 per cent of their total media budget on social media. But how can marketers make sure this money is used wisely? Follow our three top tips for marketing success.

Be entertaining

No one goes on to social media accounts to be bored by the small print of a product launch or new service. Indeed, a study by Axonn found that 55.7 per cent of social media users unfollowed brands if they posted boring or salesy content. This underlines the requirement to be entertaining at all times.

For example, professional and home blender company Blendtec has struck on the perfect marketing campaign by just making videos of its tests. The 'Will it Blend?' series has seen iPads, the Twilight books and a skeleton blended in an effort to prove just how powerful the machinery is. Blendtec now has over 242 million views on YouTube and this demonstrates how even run-of-the-mill products can be given an edgy and cool feel.

Be active

If you're going to use social media as a customer tool, responding to people - and doing so in a timely fashion - is essential. Some 98.6 per cent of people questioned by Axonn said they expect some kind of response from a brand, while 41 per cent are looking for a comment or reply. In short, response times and rates are important, as a disgruntled customer on social media can a very dangerous proposition.

Analysis by SocialBakers showed that Dutch airline KLM has its social media policy spot on, as despite having over six million fans, it still boasts a response rate of 99.2 per cent. This dedication to social media responses has allowed it to develop a positive brand image and underlines how business in the digital age is a two-way street.

Be topical

If you are looking to attract more people to your website and boost engagement rates, creating timely or topical content and pushing it out through social media is a must. For example, this year's World Cup semi-final between Germany and Brazil was the most tweeted about sporting event of all time, which gave marketers the perfect platform to tie in their products and services.

And companies do not have to be directly related to the events in order to capture the imagination. Despite not buying any of the lucrative airtime around last year's Super Bowl, Oreo still managed to steal the marketing limelight. After a power outage, the company linked a status saying 'Power Out? No problem' to a photo ad with the caption: "You can still dunk in the dark." Within 24 hours, it had over 15,000 retweets and more than 20,000 likes on Facebook and underlined how speed, cultural relevance and creativity can trump expensive campaigns.