Profile - How We Engage Customers Online

Picking The Right Tools And Message Is Critical

Marc ThompsonBeing active on social media isn't just about sending 10 tweets a day or posting a new blog entry a few times each month. In today's world, activity is also tied to engagement and finding new ways to connect with customers could lead to considerable sales growth.

Of course, staying up on the latest social engagement tools and trends isn't easy, but it's Marc Thompson's job. "I'm a social media addict," he says. As the director of visual & social media at Counselor Top 40 distributor Genumark (asi/204588), Thompson is his firm's point person for customer interaction on the Web.

Q: What's an example of how Genumark connects with customers through social media?
A: We mainly use social media as an extension of our services. For example, if a client has an event we've supplied promotional products for, we promote it by letting people know when and where the event is taking place. Another recent way we've engaged clients is through what we call the Genumark Forest – an ongoing project in which account managers are planting trees when orders of a specific amount are placed. This combines interacting with clients, creating content for social media, as well as giving back to the environment.

Q: Do you target particular groups through specific social media channels?
A: Generally speaking, I post the same content across the board with slight tweaks here and there depending on the content.

Q: But certain tools are more effective for doing different things, right?
A: I find that Pinterest is a great place to build up catalogues of exciting products. I use Pinterest not so much to interact with people, but to forward people new ideas. Posts on Twitter become ancient history more quickly so it makes more sense to post more frequently. We've just started using Instagram and even though we've gotten a bunch of ‘likes' on certain photographs, I'm not convinced this hits our demographic. It does, however, provide a great tool for posting to multiple platforms at once.

Q: How do you encourage feedback from customers?
A: We do it a number of ways – through contests, tagging clients in posts, searching for promotional products we've provided and commenting ourselves. To get feedback you must give feedback, too.

Q: How and where do you find fresh content to present online?
A: We find content mainly from following clients and friends, and reposting. We also look to apps like Flipboard and websites such as Mashable. I try to keep it as organic as possible.

Q: How has Genumark optimized its website to increase viewer awareness of social media?
A: We have social media icons on our header, a Twitter feed on our homepage and social share buttons on our blog posts.

Q: What social media tools do you think are trending up and which are trending down?
A: I hate to say it but Google+ is falling off the pace. It's a shame because I believe its design, usability and apps are better when compared to a certain other social network. I think it simply joined the game too late. I can't say enough good things about Flipboard – this really is a great tool to find content on any subject. I use it for both work and personal and it's fantastic.

Q: How can businesspeople without much time for social media still engage customers digitally?
A: When browsing the Internet in my spare time, I'm always coming across content that would be good to post for work. My time is divided at Genumark by a number of tasks, so I have to make time for social media. Sitting and searching for content isn't really my style. Coming across things organically is much more effective, but you have to be interested in subject matter that is relevant in the work area to begin with.

Q: How does Genumark effectively measure the impact of social media?
A: We use Google Analytics and measure open rates for e-mail blasts. Plus, remember, Facebook has built-in analytics, too.