Communicating with customers in the shop or by telephone is a matter of course for green businesses, but communicating online with their customers, including on social media, is something many firms find very difficult. From specialist editor Katrin Klawitter
Communication with the customer becomes a basic requirement thanks to social media
Thanks to social media and opportunities for online interaction, online communication is a matter of routine today, and a major component of the business process. This is the encouraging message from Heidi Hecht, Project Manager Social Media and PR at the Grünen Medienhaus (Bonn), to visitors to this year’s Bedding and Balcony Plant Day in Ahlem. She is convinced that social media can have a positive influence on trade.
The facts speak for themselves. She knows that four out of ten social media users have already bookmarked the product concerned before buying it online or have shared it as a favourite on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. And 71 per cent of consumers look for inspiration by references in the social media before buying a product.
Which social media have the greatest influence on purchasing today?
According to Heidi Hecht, Facebook (30.8 %) is in first place, followed by YouTube and LinkedIn (each 27%), Google Plus (20%), Pinterest (12%) and Twitter (8%). The influence of each of the media varies with the product groups. In the gardening and decorating sphere, Pinterest (18%) exercises more influence than Facebook (8%) and Twitter (8%).
Studies from neuromarketing prove that only two per cent of information we receive is retained in our memory. So, in this whole flow of information, how do green companies manage to make sure they are included in this two per cent? Hecht thinks that the first important factor is the composition of one’s own target group and its online needs. These differ quite markedly from men to women.
According to Heidi Hecht, women use Facebook somewhat more often than men: 51.2% of the 2.1 billion or so Facebook users all over the world and of the 30 million in Germany are women. Conversely, 55% of the 1 billion Instagram users throughout the world are men. This is astonishing and not just for the Ahlem audience. When viewing online contents women pay more attention to whether what they are looking at is intelligent and useful to them, whereas for men the usefulness of the content has no role to play; for them it is rather more important that the content is amusing.
Younger people are inspired by images, older people by text
A company’s Internet presence must have contents suited to its different types of customer. Heidi Hecht’s maxim is: “Content is king”. By ‘content’ she does not only mean the contents as such, but also the way they are presented. According to this maxim, young customers of between 18 and 24 years of age primarily prefer content in the form of videos (65%), followed by photos (51%) and social media posts (49%). Conversely, users over 55 years of age prefer news bulletins (59%) to inform them about the contents, followed by videos (43%) and studies (40%). In a nutshell: Younger people are easier to enthuse online with images and older people prefer texts.
Which social medium is suitable for my company?
The preferred media are also different. In contrast to what is often said, more young people (88%) than older people (69%) have a Facebook account. Facebook is therefore still the all-purpose social medium. Conversely, it is almost exclusively younger people (64%) who use Instagram accounts; only a few older people (9%) use them. The differences in Snapchat are even starker. In this case, 59% of younger people and only 1% of older people have an account. The differences are not as significant for Twitter and Pinterest; young and old use Xing and LinkedIn to almost the same extent.
As far as the content is concerned, Heidi Hecht advises to tell a story, a common advertising technique. This is the best way of targeting the attention the two per cent. “Right from childhood we liked good, exciting, funny stories,” says the expert. Why should this be otherwise in the social media? And she illustrates this with, among other examples, the saucy, catchy advertising from Sixt (“For everyone who has a Gauland in the neighbourhood, hire a cost-effective removal van now.”), the “Eat-karus” video from Edeka and the Volmary campaign with its “ice babies”, all of which are good examples of how to catch the audience’s attention.
Set yourself apart from other companies in online contact with customers
“Set yourself apart from the crowd,” advises Heidi Hecht, including for online contact with customers. This applies not only to the right content format, but also to finding the right social network. She advises companies to motivate with stories, to get across visions, messages and information of a kind that the users will to a great extent remember. For this is in the long run what influences their decision to purchase. According to Heidi Hecht, Instagram is more time-consuming than Facebook; two to three posts should be up and running there. According to a consultant, managing social media contents is a daily task and for this reason companies should appoint a social media manager, either externally or from their own staff, for example a loyal employee.