In addition to working with clients to design and optimize their user interfaces and design and evolve websites and blogs, I also help clients maximize their online strategy. While there are o “cookie cutter” solutions I typically suggest some measure of traditional SEO and pay per click mingled with more cutting-edge social media networking tools.
While getting buy-in on search engine marketing, PPC and display advertising is relatively straightforward, I hear plenty of concerns from clients about entering the social media landscape. I understand the hesitation – the rapid-fire, 24×7 design of social media gives everyone a soapbox and not always a positive one. Although it is intimidating, social media is also the fastest growing segment of online marketing – ignoring it isn’t an option.
Often the first social media and networking strategies I suggest to clients is to listen to the feedback of their customers specifically and market in general. Establishing a Twitter handle and following industry experts or peers, reviewing LinkedIn’s Q&A section and setting up Google Alerts for your brand name are all great and inexpensive ways to get started. Once they have this foundation established, it’s fairly easy to monitor conversations, build relationships and participate (if that is part of their objective).
Once they are following their brand throughout social media channels, it is time to explore the feedback and see what can be learned from it. Every brand or company has to deal with a few “Negative Nancy’s”—those folks who are always complaining or finding fault. But what does one do upon encountering a recurring negative theme in the comments?
Rather than pursue these conversations on social media networks and in front of the online community, it may be smart to pursue a slightly different angle and conversation strategy…one that blends traditional market research with more modern technology, the moderated IM-based conversation.
Unlike online questionnaires that are oftentimes too short and dry to be meaningful or expensive field focus groups where the group dynamic can dilute, one-on-one qualitative interviews are a great way to have productive and thoughtful conversations with customers without letting passion or emotions sway the process. Also known as one-on-one qualitative sessions, these sessions occur via IM and help people feel more at ease so they will open up and share thoughts that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Many online research companies offer interviewers who are professionally trained at online moderating that will ask insightful questions to help better identify strengths and possible weaknesses within your brand, product, customer service and more.
Once you have that research in hand, you can make more objective assessments about your business and make adjustments accordingly. With the help of a one-on-one qualitative solution, you’ll be able to gain valuable intelligence in a tough economy that could make the difference in surviving and not – and show your customers that you are really listening. And in today’s online world, the human touch still goes a long way towards running a successful business.