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Beyond the “like” button:
Using social media to
connect with customers

Now more than ever, customer relationships are built online—primarily through social media. According to Instagram, 90% of user accounts follow a business.1 At the same time, hot-button topics seem to be the primary driver for engagement. This can leave business owners questioning how to leverage their social media accounts—especially Facebook® accounts—to connect meaningfully with customers, and whether they should step into the fray of controversial conversations.

Be open. Be genuine. 

Authenticity plays a crucial role in customer connection, according to premiere Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith. “The people, businesses and brands that are strong and brave enough to go on camera and just talk openly with their audience will go a very long way to building a fiercely loyal fan base,” she says. This idea applies to handling sensitive subjects and public relations issues and to giving your customers a glimpse of who you really are as a business. Besides using video to confront issues head-on, video also helps customers connect to the people behind the business—especially through livestreams.

When it comes to polarizing topics, Smith says this is where authenticity really matters. “Always be true to yourself.

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    Make sure your content is created around your brand values. When a difficult issue comes up that may impact your business and your audience, you always come back to what your business stands for.”

  • Smith says that now is a great time to revisit personal and company values so that any responses you might have to sensitive subjects are authentic. If something comes along that hits one of your values, speak out. There’s no reason to stay silent about things that matter to you—but you’re under no obligation to offer an opinion about every trending topic.

  • Mari Smith Using Social Media to Connect with Customers

Consistency counts.

Consistency is key to developing customer relationships. Many businesses have put social media on the back burner as they tackle more pressing issues, but Smith says now is the best time to amplify your voice. “Start publishing with a regular cadence—at least three to five times a week or, ideally, one time every day,” she says. “Use a variety of ways to reach your audience, from social posts and email to live video. Don't expect instant results, but with consistency, your audience will start to reengage. And don't forget to include those CTAs!”

Speaking of calls to action (CTAs), Smith notes that implementing a call to action is where many businesses struggle. “One area [where] I often see businesses fall short is the conversion component. It’s totally fine to include calls to action on your social content. Don’t be afraid to ask for the sale,” she says.

Have an evergreen strategy.

If this past year has taught us anything, it’s the need to stay grounded in the face of challenges. This should apply to social media strategy as well. “I recommend implementing an evergreen strategy to help keep small business owners grounded, regardless of major changes,” she says. Smith offers a three-part model that focuses on content, engagement and conversion. “Most SMBs get the first two parts right, where they create and publish content across their social channels, and engagement with their audience.”

Facebook says that 7 in 10 businesses think they are communicating effectively with customers, yet just 2 in 10 customers agree.1

Smith says there’s more that businesses can do to amplify their conversion efforts. “At the top of your funnel, definitely ask for contact information. Give people direction on what you want them to do. Facebook makes this very easy with CTA buttons such as Learn More, Download, Contact Us and Shop Now,” she says. By utilizing these simple CTA buttons, businesses can drive the type of engagement they’re after.

While being grounded in strategy is important, agility is equally important when it comes to tools and platforms.

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    “Be mindful of not putting all your eggs in one basket when it comes to social media.”

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    Smith says. “I've always said that Facebook is ‘rented land.’ That means, you don't really own the audience of any of your social channels. So, make sure you're also collecting email addresses and using email nurture sequences in your campaigns.”

    She also suggests collecting phone numbers for permission-based SMS marketing. Since Instagram has recently integrated the Messenger platform, and Facebook has opened the application programming interface (API) for chatbots, Messenger marketing has become an area with growing potential as well. As Smith suggests, “The more ways you have to reach your audience, the more ways you have to stay agile.”

  • Mari Smith Using Social Media to Connect with Customers

Make the most of available tools.

New tools and integrations are added to social media platforms with increasing frequency. Make sure you’re aware of changes to platforms by following their business pages on social media. For example, the Facebook Privacy and Business page regularly posts updates regarding tools, as well as tips on how best to use them. You can also find more news and advice on how to use new integrations on the business blogs for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or other social media channels you’re using. Adapting your efforts to utilize new features can help you as you use social media to connect with customers.

Smith recommends using tools like Facebook Groups and Facebook Watch Parties to build engagement and to go deeper with your customers. For example, when you stream via Facebook Live on your business page, if you also have a linked Facebook group, you can go deeper with your audience and could host the same Facebook Live content on a different date with a live Q&A. 

Perhaps most important are the new shopping tools coming to social media platforms. Shopping is slated to integrate with Instagram® Reels in the future, which will allow e-commerce and retail businesses to tag products in their Reels videos. Additionally, shopping is slated to come to Instagram Stories and Facebook Live in coming months, offering a completely new experience to customers. “Think QVC or HSN meets livestreaming. This will be huge,” says Smith.

Interested in learning more about using social media to connect with your customers? Watch Verizon’s small business webinar featuring Mari Smith to learn more about using Facebook and Instagram Stories to help your business shine.

About Mari Smith

When it comes to Facebook marketing, Smith is recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, brands and direct sales organizations. She’s the author of The New Relationship Marketing, she was named by Forbes as one of the Top 10 Social Media Power Influencers, and her work has earned her the nickname “the Queen of Facebook.” 

1 facebook.com/business/marketing/instagram