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The Challenge of Social Media Marketing: Getting from “Awareness” to “Trust”

Online marketers are now beginning to understand that successful social media marketing is a journey. It takes off from the plains of business exposure, where your efforts get your products and services noticed by your prospects. Then it wends its way through the fickle maze of customer preferences and expectations, hopefully earning that vote of confidence known as the “Like.”

If things go as planned, the journey ought to end at that most fervently desired of all accomplishments-- winning the customer’s trust. Awareness is one of social media’s strengths. A recent survey undertaken by Pagemodo reveals, rather surprisingly, that social media marketers consider “audience awareness” and “traffic generation” as the top benefits of their efforts, edging out even “improvement in sales.”

This may be because creating awareness is quite easy using social media. There are two things working for you in social networks. First is their sheer enormity. Even the obscure, moderately successful and highly niche networks have member bases that are equivalent to the population of a small country. This is what initially drives businesses wild over social media; the lure of enormous markets is simply overwhelming.

The other advantage of social networks is a phenomenon now known as “virality”, when messages get passed on like wildfire across a network. These two advantages conspire to almost assure you that your marketing message will reach a large number of people -- all prospects for new business. So it’s great that social media can get you the eyeballs, but this is hardly the end you would like to achieve; it is only the beginning.

Now that you have people’s attention, the next step is to engage them effectively enough so that they form an opinion and are coaxed into positive action. In other words, you should aim to get people to click on the “Like” button (if you’re on Facebook) or its equivalent in the platform you are using. Engagement is the name of the game, and it involves giving your audiences what they seek.

Of course that’s easier said than done; engaging your audiences starts with knowing them intimately -- their problems, their interests and even their media consumption habits -- then offering solutions to their problems, feeding their interests and supporting their consumption habits. There are many approaches to engaging your audience.

The one (or ones) you pick will depend on what you know about your target markets. Some strategies that have worked well in the past include finding the thing about your product that resonates with your targets, soliciting inputs from customers, positioning yourself, your company or your products as the market leader, creating games for customers to play and win prizes and offering exclusive content to lure customers to sign up.

Regardless of whichever approach you employ, you need to make sure that you are both creative and consistent. Creativity will keep it interesting for your customers and provide the “wow” factor that creates buzz for you. Consistency helps you build your credibility, assuring your customers that they can depend on you. This also helps to carry you to the next and final level of this lengthy process: earning the trust of your audiences.

Trust, then, is the holy grail we all, as social media marketers work hard to achieve. It means winning and capturing the hearts and minds of our audiences. It is the point at which we successfully convert a contact into a relationship. British billionaire Richard Branson declares that the secret to lasting success is securing your customers’ trust. Trust is certainly the key to Walgreen’s continuing success in the marketplace, despite continued pressure from such retail store giants as Wal-Mart.

Charles Green and Andrea Howe, in their book “The Trusted Advisor” (http://trustedadvisor.com/books/the-trusted-advisor) talk about trust as the function of four key variables: credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation. Interestingly, each of these factors are the very same goals we seek to attain in our social media marketing efforts.

 

Edwin Huertas - Isis CMS

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