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Social Media Marketing can be useful, but not at the Expense of Personal Interactions There's no denying social media is here to stay, but in a fickle world where customers are less loyal to brands, we need to work harder to gain their love

By Anaita Sarkar

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Social media marketing is big business. In the past few decades, it has grown from a small niche in the marketing mix to an entire industry in itself, creating thousands of jobs, from those carving expertise in managing paid and organic social media platforms to those "influencers" who use their own personal brand to operate as a business.

But algorithms continuously evolve and the tides change. Instagram is currently running a trial in selected countries, including Australia, where users are no longer able to see other people's "likes". The reason being to remove "pressure" on users and to encourage more impactful content, which increases user engagement, although some commentators have questioned these motivates. The impact remains to be seen, but one thing that is true is that social media marketing is changing at a rapid pace. As soon as marketers get the hang of one platform, it will change its processes, analytics or search algorithms. Essentially, these platforms are businesses that operate for profit, and trying to achieve success without investing cash is going to continue to be a challenge. Furthermore, public perceptions change – a recent survey found that 44 per cent of Australians distrust social media so relying on this solely can be a risky strategy. *

This is why I'm a big believer in putting the work in, not looking for shortcuts and for putting the personal touch back into the equation. This is the only way brands will really secure loyal "fans" and therefore "customers" for life through person-to-person (P2P) business strategies. There's no such thing as "easy money" and some hard graft will be involved, but ultimately it will be worth it, because happy customers become returning customers, and retaining them is far preferable to starting all over again to attract new audiences.

So, what do I mean by P2P? It may sound simple, but it's remarkable how many brands get caught up in the individual day-to-day, pursuing goals and KPIs. When coffee shops started putting people's names on cups, or in change rooms in active-wear outlets, there was some scepticism. But they've kept doing it, because it works. People like to feel valued, and that they matter, that they aren't simply a cog in your brand's wheel, churning over profit for an unknown team of corporates.

What does this mean, in reality? It's about implementing strategies that make customers feel valued and more than just a cog in a big wheel. It's the little things that count, for example, maybe crafting a hand-written note with their first purchase welcoming them to the tribe, offering something special on their birthday or a tiered rewards' program, making it clear that you appreciate their loyalty. When customers feel special and valued, the "feel good" vibe spreads. Initially, this will be a manual process but it will pay off. And, as you grow, there are technologies that allow you to automate processes, while still keeping the personal touch.

There's no denying social media is here to stay, but in a fickle world where customers are less loyal to brands than ever before, we need to work harder to gain their love.

We can't give everyone the "star" treatment, but a tried and tested methodology is to identify your top 1,000 customers, give them some additional attention, and make them feel valued. From here, your brand will have the building blocks to develop even more meaningful customer relationships, regardless of how social media platforms change their ways! You'll be able to create fans for life, who'll keep coming back for more.

Anaita Sarkar

Founder, Olivia & Co.


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