As we pass the halfway mark in 2014, not much has changed this year in how social media affects our use of various outlets—perhaps with the exception of those taking part in the “99 Days of Freedom” experiment. The usual rules still apply, to post topics that are timely, emphasize the customer’s needs and building a relationship, make offers and information unique to the outlet, and, most importantly, use proper grammar!
While some companies fail to grasp these simplest of rules, others have not only embraced the use of social media to build their brand, they are taking innovative steps to connect with customers and offering unique incentives for those who interact. By integrating social media into their corporate structure and business plan, these companies are engaging with customers on a new level.
One such company is Whole Foods, who established a dedicated team responsible for monitoring social channels for customer questions, and concerns, as well as praise. After announcing in March that it would begin labeling GMOs, the company received a lot of customer questions and feedback, which it then used to create a initiative to educate customers and to answer the most frequently asked questions.
Hampton Hotels and Restaurants is another example of business getting to the heart of what matters to customers. The company employs a dedicated staff to listens to every single tweet, post, status update or comment about their hotels and restaurants—and for a chain of their size, that’s a lot of mentions.
Primarily, the staff members address the issues and complaints, but this company takes it a step further. In one example, a guest received a bowl of soup and a spot of tea. This may not seem terribly out of the ordinary. That is, until you consider that the guest, who was in a Maui hotel, had voiced her woes over social media that she was sick that day and couldn't go out. In addition to the thoughtful nourishment, the hotel included a get well card to her tray, for good measure.
Credit card behemoth American Express connects card members with merchant partners—millions of them—allowing a card member to load an offer directly onto their card via Twitter hash tags. Last March, the company launched a program with the functionality to tweet special hash tags to make purchases, allowing customers to buy products from companies like Sony, Amazon, and Microsoft.
Using social media in business is far from an exact science, and while the basic tenets may not change year to year, the inventive ways businesses engage with their customer base is evolving, creating its own niche.