Using social media to effectively communicate with your target market is by no means a new strategy, and has in fact become commonplace in many of today's businesses strategies.
The issue exists that companies and consumers in general, work on a difference of 'context', motivated by self-interest of relation (consumer) and transaction (company). These different ideals, managed poorly, can and do lead to mis-communication and distrust in the product or service, which is especially poignant in today's digital world. What's more, any positive or negative experience is instantly shared, regardless of the actual context in which the transaction occurred.
Thus, a typical marketing tactic is to undertake extensive research of target markets in order to better understand how and when to communicate effectively. Although this is a tried and tested method, it does limit itself to the belief that a company can understand their consumers, something that in all honesty is not as common as you may think, especially if the target market is of different countries or cultures.
As an answer to this, I have devised what I term my 4 i's of engagement, where I detail a framework of communication which can help bridge the gap that exists between company and consumer, without the need for extensive research.
Knowing yourself, your product, service and the message you wish to portray to the consumer. Regardless of what the market actually wants to hear, your first action should be to know who you are, what you offer and want you wish the consumer to know about you.
Once you know yourself, it is time to discover what communities are popular within your company's industry, and which ambassadors and key figures are people listening to and following. What groups are they a member of, what sort of blogs, news and articles do they write and what other products do they cover. Make note of any key individuals that you feel fit the profile and values of your company, and that they are active in all the social media channels that your market represent.
Once you have a list of key figures in the community, work to nurture relationships by working to make them a part of the company structure, supporting their efforts in their communities directly. These ambassadors have the unique ability to converse on both sides of the communication equation, and thus represent the consumer to your company, and your company to the consumer in a very effective manner. It is therefore vitally important to ensure that your ambassadors communications and opinions are transparent and honest, even if they negative reactions to some of your latest product releases. If this is the case, work show you are ready to correct mistakes and overcome issues with the ambassadors directly. This will build trust and confidence on all sides.
Grow the community on the backbone of your ambassadors, incubating the relationship and continuing the support. Create channels to showcase their insights and abilities, providing them with product, service, direct channels to the company, as well as the frameworks to do what they do best... communicate.