Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are replacing traditoinal forms of public relations and advertising, according to a leading high street restaurant chain.
Addressing a Travel Technology Initiative “It’s Good To Tweet” seminar this week, Giraffe marketing brand manager, Vikki O’Neill said the micro-blogging site has helped service-based businesses to grow their customer base and drive a loyal online following.
“Twitter, without a doubt drives business. Some people don’t get twitter and think it’s bad, I absolutely do not believe that,” O’Neill said. “I am sure it will evolve into another form sometime in the future but it is a completely fundamental shift in the way we communicate.
“People don’t text their friends any more, they Facebook them or tweet them. If you want to meet friends on a Saturday night, you send someone a message on Facebook, you don’t call them. That’s not a fad, that’s a change in where communication is heading.”
O’Neill said there were four key factors to building a large and devoted online following. First of all, companies must inform their customers by giving them news about new services, deals and sales. It is not enough to just keep users up to date however, O’Neill said companies also needed to engage.
Her tweets do not just announce information, they are informal and conversational. She said she also sends messages directly to customers which encourages conversation and makes sure they know they are being listened to. It is also a great way to deal with complaints, O’Neill added.
O’Neill’s third piece of advice was to listen. When a user receives a tweet directly from the company that helps resolve an issue, they are much more likely to become a return customer.
She said when customers know they are heard and get a response they can go on to become ‘super users’. These are people who not only love the brand, they will defend it when other users who post derogatory comments. That can ensure any negative comments do less damage to the company’s overall reputation.
Finally, O’Neill said it was important to have fun. When a company takes a light-hearted and personal approach to social media users respond favourably. “It’s really all about loyalty,” she said. “Once you have the people engaged, it’s about sustaining that and keeping them engaged so they will visit you more often.”