It was interesting to read in a recent ET report that auto giants like Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Tata Motors India are planning to make refreshed efforts in 2012 to tap their existing and potential customer base through Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. As per the report ‘E-Marketing Outlook in India for 2012′ by Octane Marketing, the top two online marketing initiatives that will see an increase in marketing investments in 2012, as compared to 2011 are social media (at 68.8 percent) and e-mail marketing (at 53.1 percent).
DNA and TOI on the other hand, gave a detailed reported on how social media was increasingly used by Indian brands in 2011. All of this basically proves Social Media gaining prominence as a customer acquisition platform amongst Businesses in India.
We have listed down some pointers that should help Businesses acquire customers through Social Media.
A platform for good customer services
We’ve seen newspapers in India frequently reporting tweets or posts of angry customers on a company’s social media page. Once this kind of content about a company’s faulty product or inconsiderate service gets rolling in the online marketplace, there’s no looking back on the company’s reputation being harmed – Vodafone India is an example in this case.
A great way to acquire customers though social media would be to use this feedback to your advantage and gain your customer’s trust. Welcome feedback and act upon it so that customers know that you’re there on social media not just for lip service, but for actually being able to get things done quicker. Word of mouth for good service always spreads fast. Act on the praise and the brickbats with equal gusto.
Catering marketing strategies to reach out to the B-towns
We commonly tend to think that only people in the Mumbai locals and Delhi metros would be carrying smartphones. Hence, many brands make the mistake of forming their internet penetration strategies that apply only to that demographic. But remember, with the smartphone coming of age in India, about 75 percent of users of mobile networks belong to B and C class towns, as reported by the Business Standard. You can acquire customers through social media by catering your social media marketing strategies keeping in mind B town demographics, requirements and sensibilities.
Connect with offline events
Social media marketers in India need to remember that they still have to keep offline marketing as a part of their campaign. Relying on social media alone would cost them their non-Internet using customer base dearly. Partnering with offline events that match the brand image is crucial for acquiring a large following on a company’s social media page. Take for example Koovs, an Indian deals site which acquired a huge following when it partnered with the Great Indian Oktoberfest in 2011.
Share interesting content that may not be directly related to your brand
This is primarily to show your fans and following on social media that you’re not here to use them as scapegoats to promote your business 24×7. A chat, irrelevant conversation (to your business or product) of current happenings, polls, contests and interactive opinion taking quizzes etc. would be a great way to maintain relationship with your customers.
Make members amongst your following interact with each other so that as a brand or an individual seller, you can keep a track on what’s hot and what’s not. Check out HDFC Bank, Kingfisher and Tata Docomo’s Facebook pages to see how they have interspersed their wall posts with promotional and non-promotional conversations.
Associate promotions with days and dates
You wouldn’t expect the Indian shopping and deals portal Deals and You to run an Agony Aunt corner for the upcoming Valentine’s Day on their Facebook page right? Well, that’s exactly how they are planning to attract young customers to their Valentine’s Day special deals. If the Future Group is famous for strategizing its big sales in Big Bazaar chains according to the local festivals of each state they operate in, you can do the same on social media too.
Madhusudan Thakur, Regional Vice-President, South Asia for Regus aptly summarizes the advantages of acquiring customers though social media:
"As businesses emerge from the downturn they are increasingly reconsidering pre-recession working practices and opting for more flexible, competitive strategies. From supply chain management, to leaner working practices, to cloud computing, to increased use of video communications and mobile working no area of business is being overlooked. Particularly in India where Nielsen reports that 3 out of 4 social media users visit a social networking site at least once a day, and a discussion forum once a week, more and more companies are leveraging this channel to increase the loyalty of existing customers, and as a successful acquisition tool." [Source]
Social Media is definitely a great platform for customer acquisition, however, it should not be looked upon as another tool for just self-promotion & marketing!