Flickr CC: Nasa hq photo

{ Pick My Brain! is fixed price service tailored to early stage startups, gender wage gap adjusted for female founders. }

The advice available on how to adapt ones business to the social web, where a customer represented by the social consumer has her own voice and influence over her own audience, can be overwhelming. It’s kind of like getting a ton of Lego poured in front of you, been asked to start building, except you don’t quite know what shape you’re expected to build, and which pieces of Lego are best suited for the task. So, why not start building together with the customer, one piece at a time? The future of business is not created, it is co-created.

How To Get Started With The Social Customer

How did others get started? Brian Solis talked to Eleftherios Hatziioannou, former Global Social Media Manager and Change Agent at Mercedes-Benz, about how a luxury brand found its way into social media and started a conversation with its customers. Whenever you’re in doubt, or the self acclaimed social media gurus, trade union officers as Milo Yiannopoulos calls them, try to confuse you with their new pieces of Lego, these are the 15 minutes of comfort to return to.

I chose this particular story, because I wanted to highlight the fact that there’s no difference between how a well known brand, with high expectations on quality, or any other brand for that matter, starts to engage with its customers online. It’s about building relationships. On the social web one has to earn its place in the conversation with the social consumer. There are no shortcuts, no secret mystery formulas. And you really can’t choose to not engage. (Anyone suggesting success can be achieved with opposite approach, i.e. the Apple way, I dearly recommend to watch this interview with Guy Kawasaki.)

How Did Mercedes Benz Do?
  • Started by listening and monitoring what was said about the brand, what sentiment was being used.
  • Be where your customers are. It filtered and defined different social media platforms for best brand fit.
  • Don’t try to be everywhere. Less is more. Be disciplined and create shortlist.
  • Started being present by merely putting out and broadcast content, only to fast discover that it was the more conversational approach, that engaged people to share their thoughts and experiences.
  • Set the stage for customers to share their stories: It started by conversing on Facebook by simply asking to recall people’s very first Mercedes Benz moment, resulting in hundreds of comments on why people love Mercedes Benz. The best thing that can happen to a brand!
  • Mercedes Benz has never spent one dollar on Facebook ads or advertising. It’s all been organic growth! It spends resources on creating interesting, personal and exclusive content that makes people share. That’s when the powerful word of mouth kicks in.
  • Set up social media round table with representatives across the entire organization to have regular conversations and to inform on all the opportunities of social web. It’s a much more social way to bring people together and collaborate. As Brian Solis summarizes:

“We’re rapidly moving to complete socialization of business, not any one department. but the whole organization.”

Mercedez Benz Key Takeaways
  • Help your organization to understand what social media is about. It was hard to get resources to try on new things even at Mercedes Benz. Change is never easy.
  • Start with little things and demonstrate success. Show use cases to convince why investments need to be done.
  • Dare to push ones brand out of its comfort zone into where customers are focusing their attention, where they are conversing online. Dare to lean back and let the customers take the driver’s seat. You never know what can happen, one can only try to catch the next wave.
  • Show that you appreciate the community! Customers appreciate exclusive content, such as photos, campaign launches, and offers shared on social networks.
  • It’s crucial to have the ability to recognize influencers and empower them to lead conversation with the community.
  • It takes time: It took almost a year for Mercedes Benz to grow the community from 100K to 500K. With gained trust it then took only 8 weeks to grow from 500K to 1Million!
  • It’s not free, but it’s not about spending marketing dollars on buying media. It’s about producing quality content for social media.

Ps. If you’re working with B2B customers, no need to feel left out: It’s also about connecting and having conversations with people. I promise you will feel enlightened after reading this priceless advice on B2B social media marketing.

Press Play and Feel Encouraged

If you haven’t tuned in yet, Revolution is an interview series by Brian Solis filled with interesting, engaging, and honest conversations with industry leaders about trends and ideas defining the future of business, marketing, and media. (Subscribe to BrianSolis TV Channel).

REVOLUTION with Brian Solis: Eleftherios Hatziioannou

Paula is Digital Product Advisor and Top 100 Women in Tech in Europe, focusing on Product, Go-to-market, and Internationalization strategies. Rated as one of the very best startup mentors in Europe, she has to date mentored over 150 digital technology companies on product, marketing and growth. Pick My Brain! is her fixed price service tailored to early stage startups, gender wage gap adjusted for female founders. Contact Paula for digital strategy work or book her as keynote speaker about #Startups #WomenInTech #GenderEquality #Entrepreneurship. Read more about her work and connect @Twitter, @LinkedIn. “You never learn anything when you speak, only when you listen”Roelof Botha / Douglas Leone, Sequoia Capital

Don’t miss the future of DATA in Berlin – Register now for Next11!