Connecting with Consumers through Social Media

Friday, March 22, 2013
RPE, Inc. logo

Technology has changed the way we interact with the world and connect with one another.  Facebook, blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, online reviews and consumer-centric sites all have changed the way we market our products to consumers.

Ten years ago, consumer marketing consisted of touting a product’s best qualities, creating an advertising/marketing campaign and telling the consumer what to believe.  Websites, namely social media websites, have changed the way consumers discover, learn and make purchasing decisions about products.  Today, we ask our friends what they think about a particular product and get almost instant feedback.  My friend visits Chicago and uploads a picture on Instagram.  I respond back with the name of a restaurant that’s nearby.  Betsey in Cleveland pinned a picture on Pinterest and says that the latest widget is the best product ever and even though she’s a complete stranger, I trust her opinion more than what is on the product website.

Don’t get me wrong; social media is not a sole marketing campaign on its own—you still need to promote your  brand and your products through traditional marketing methods—but if you haven’t jumped on the social media bandwagon by now, you are missing out.

Sixty-seven percent of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice they hear on Facebook, according to BlogHer while 56 percent of people are more likely to recommend a brand after becoming a fan of that brand on Facebook says the Digital Buzz;. And 70 percent of consumers follow links that were posted by family and friends, according to Pew Research.

Social media has become a tremendously important part of a comprehensive integrated marketing plan, and has also created a relatively inexpensive platform in which to interact with consumers directly and have direct impact on sales and positive word of mouth.

How do you join the conversation?

  • Create your profiles. Decide which social media platforms you are going to use to connect with your consumers and create your profiles.  Our company uses Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest because this is the mix we felt was most relevant to our target market.

  • Find your voice. Think about how current topics can relate to your product or help your target market.  Post about things that focus less on marketing your product and more on things that connect with your target market.  Then, sprinkle a little product promotion in here and there—just enough to maintain a brand presence without “marketing” your products.

  • Make it a conversation. If you met a consumer face-to-face, you would have a two-way conversation.  The companies who have the most successful social media pages do just that—make it a conversation.  By talking with your consumers instead of at them, you are creating a space for individuals to interact.

  • Keep it fresh. Post on your social media pages at least two times per week.  You can’t create much buzz around your brand for a page that only gets updated on occasion.

  • Reward engagement. When a consumer engages with you by joining in the conversation, re-pinning a picture or liking your status, reward her.  Rewards might be as simple as a comment back, sending the person a free coupon or hosting a random drawing for a bigger prize for the first five people to comment on your post.  For relatively no cost, you can promote engagement and encourage other fans to be active participants.

And, above all, don’t forget to have fun with your social media pages.  Consumers visit social media pages to be social—not to hear the same commercial that they saw on TV.  Remember to bring a human-like quality to your pages, and engage with consumers in a more “relaxed” style than you would through traditional marketing efforts.  Following these simple steps will allow you to add social media into your marketing arsenal to create a well-rounded integrated marketing campaign.

- Randy Shell

About the Author: Randy Shell is vice president of marketing and new business development for RPE, Inc., and has over 30 years of retail and foodservice experience in the produce industry.  RPE, Inc., a second generation family-owned farm, is a category leader and key grower/shipper of year-round potatoes and onions.

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