Thursday, May 2, 2013

Social Media Creates a Connected Customer Experience

If you think your business is not “doing” social media, you’re wrong. Your company may not be active, but I guarantee your fans and your non-supporters are there. It is the brand's responsibility to create a social media experience that can turn a dissatisfied customer into a fan. These days, social media has become the equalizer between companies and customers, but utilizing social channels to their full potential can be complex if social media is not incorporated into a customer engagement strategy.

In fact, this year social CRM could witness a significant shift away from the use of social media as pure marketing, and instead collaborating for customer support interactions, according to Jenny Sussin, principal research analyst at Gartner . By 2015, the development of social media teams will accelerate, and by 2017, social media could achieve enterprise-wide clout. It is estimated that three percent of social media interactions that companies have with customers today may grow to 20 percent by 2016.

More and more businesses are experiencing the value of social media as a tool to improve the customer experience. It is being used as more than a communications platform, and is actually transforming into a means to ensure product quality and services. Positive social media interactions can contribute to customer satisfaction as well, but companies need to consider accessibility to ensure customers have the same experience whenever they interact with a brand on social media.

According to Sussin, developing a social media plan to improve the customer experience begins with assessing the organization’s social media maturity. Executives should then identify one aspect of customer engagement that would be improved through social media. After engaging stakeholders to bring social media into the customer engagement strategy, the values for success should be agreed upon. Lastly, a company should deploy a test and then iterate the strategy across the business.

That being said, here are seven ways for your company to create a memorable customer experience on social media:

Give Your Customers a Place to Talk
Companies are afraid to set up Facebook pages because they allow customers to comment, which means someone might write something negative. You should actually want customers to complain on your company's Facebook page - when customers complain on your brand's Facebook page, you can resolve their issues. And if you do it right, unhappy customers will turn their opinions around and recommend you to friends.

Integrate Social Media into Your Customer Service
Neglecting your social media properties when they're full of customer complaints is brand suicide. Don't open up the floor for complaints without a plan to handle them. Predict the complaints you may get and construct policies for replying to them. You should also plan on responding to fans who compliment you.

Activate Your Customer Base
Most brands have more customers than they do Facebook fans and Twitter followers. So, start building your social media fan base by reaching out to your current customers. Think about how you contact your customer base and how you can use those channels to draw customers to your social media properties.

Be Proactive
Don't just wait for someone to post on your wall or tweet your account. Set your brand apart by proactively interacting with customers who are talking about your brand, whether you're thanking them for a compliment or helping them solve a problem.

Reward Influencers
Find the social media influencers for your audience and give them extras. This could be as simple as giving them advance notice of a special promotion, or complex as giving them a free tour of your facilities. Reward your brand ambassadors when they least expect it and you’ll see great results.

Create Compelling Content
Give your fans something of value on your social media pages. Every brand can create quality content. Social media can be a channel to make customers or followers feel special, like they’re in an exclusive club with your brand because they follow you.

Stand Out From the Crowd
Some of the most memorable social media experiences are created by going beyond text. The more interactive and engaging your social media presence, the better.  By giving your fans a voice on social media, or encouraging participation through photos and videos, you humanize the experience.

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