With the changing face of how we market our brands, the expectations of our consumers change as well. Social media has completely changed the dynamics of how brands market themselves. With a lot of companies embracing the trend and engaging in real-time conversation with their audience, an important aspect of a business model is to retain those customers.
When companies go on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook, they are stepping into the public domain where there will be a two-way communication. A chance for the company and its consumers to engage in a real-time conversation. That also means the company will have to be prepared for not only good but bad feedback as well.
A lot of major companies still rely on traditional methods of customer services i.e. the customer service contact centers and phone calls queueing up. Imagine if you’re an irate customer calling in to make a complaint- the wait time just increases the negativity a customer (soon to be ex-customer) would feel against the brand. However, slowly but surely the awareness is developing and brands are taking social media more seriously.
From a consumer’s point of view, if more people hear about their plight on social networking sites then other consumers may chip in with their similar stories to get support for their cause in order to get the company’s attention. While social media will do wonders for your business, this is where you stop and think about how you will manage your social media presence and your customers’ expectations. What you or your customers say online are visible to anyone who has access to the internet so going social does not just mean making an account on a social media platform and sharing what you think about your brand.
You are opening yourself to real-time interaction therefore, thinking about the whole cycle is vital i.e. from social media marketing strategy to dealing with customer interactions on such sites and retention. It can make or break brands. Take into account McDonald’s #McDStories disaster which soon turned into #McDHorrorStories. Or how in 2010, in the midst of the palm oil fiasco and environmental activist group Greenpeace coming down on them, Nestle asked its consumers on their Facebook page not to use altered images of the company logo and then went on the offensive once the customers (later ex-customers) retaliated! You would think companies would learn from each other’s mistakes but during the most deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclone of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, American Apparel decided to have a “Hurricane Sandy Sale” in case customers were “bored during the storm”. Needless to say they received an overwhelmingly negative response and rightly so.
As more and more people are going on social networking sites, the awareness is spreading. My own experience of customer service with Burberry was a great one. One tweet and their customer service was on the case from the word go. From someone who probably would not have shopped at their store again to someone who is still their customer, says a lot about how much such ways of managing your customers matter(even more than in-store customer service which was a big fail in this case)! It also highlights a very important factor that while a company may be able to brush one or two bad incidents under the carpet, but once such incidents go online (where other customers can openly view it) there's no stopping it from going viral!
It’s not just about being “online” but also managing the social media from marketing strategy to customer engagement including customer service.
The people who post or tweet on your behalf are reflective of your company and they represent your credo. Those 140 characters can make or break your reputation. A lot of companies think they can hire a cool and young college kid who will manage these social platforms on their behalf and that will be the end of it. Not really. You need to look at the customer service aspect of it as well, how they deal with confrontational customers, how they portray your company’s image, so on and so forth. So you will have to dedicate resources (more money) to either hire trained professionals or let an ad agency to do that for you. Alternatively, you’ll have to allocate resources to train existing staff and add this workload to their lists of things to do and how they would manage their followers’ expectations and responses.
As discussed before, the key to being social is also maintaining it consistently. Social media forums also attract attention from your customers as well as detractors. Responding efficiently and in a timely manner shows your company is dedicated to its followers and takes their opinions and concerns seriously.
What a lot of companies forget is the relationship customers form with their brand. Word of mouth is a big part of marketing a business and on social media it’s even more relevant. You are not just selling a product or service, you are also forming relationships and friendships by the empathy you show and the way you respond to your customers’ needs. This whole experience becomes social. You could potentially influence people’s decisions and make it more transformational rather than transactional.
You may think social media is a mine field. But if you keep these key points in mind, it will do wonders for your business. Feel free to download our eBook on social media. If you want to discuss your social media strategy in detail, we would be happy to help!