Social Media is a growing element in daily life – but what about the consumer experience on social media with brands? Understanding where marketers can access the social space in an effective way is crucial to strengthening brand advocacy and generating interactions with shoppers and prospects.

Forrester found that four out of every five U.S. consumers currently participate in social media. A successful social strategy is a must, and requires finding the right mix of campaigns to reach out to consumers through the right channel.

Companies and brands need to thoroughly research all aspects of their strategy – competitive and channel landscape, the size of the prize at stake, desired audiences, the way in which audiences are engaging, and the way they could engage in the future. Once research has been done and goals are set, companies can start to build their solutions.

While most people think of Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest when they hear the words “social media”, Social Media encompasses everything from review sites, open document sharing, location-based check-ins, forums, and video commenting. Each of these interactions serves to foster conversation between consumers, and it’s important to target the most vital networks in the most valuable way.

Forrester identifies 5 objectives for Social Media:

Listening. Use social technologies for research to better understand your customers, typically involving private communities or brand monitoring.

Talking. Use social technologies to spread messages about your company, such as through videos on YouTube or with brand widgets.

Energizing. Find your most enthusiastic customers and use social technologies to supercharge the power of their word of mouth. Ratings and Reviews are powerful tools.

Supporting. Set up social tools like forums and wikis to help your customers support each other. Supporting customers with a community can also increase their comfort level and increase sales.

Embracing. Integrate your customers into the way your business works, including using their help to design your products and improve your processes.

$1.7 billion was spent in 2010 on social media advertising, with $4.3 billion estimated to be spent yearly by 2013.

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Companies that don’t integrate social will fail in the age of the customer. Make sure you have your social strategy and don’t get left behind.