Think of social media as a living, breathing organism that’s constantly growing and changing direction. That’s the advice of TeleTech, in its white paper, “Making Social Media Count.”
While you can’t contain or control social media, you can’t afford to ignore it either, notes TeleTech. “Its influence on consumers is far too profound. What businesses can and must do is learn how to build a compelling social media presence, and harness the power and knowledge of social media to better understand and engage their audiences.”
The stakes are high. Today, nearly four in five active Internet users visit social networks and blogs, according to the white paper, often using these sites as a platform to praise or condemn companies and their products and service.
“For your business,” says TeleTech, “that means at any given moment your customers are actively gathering somewhere in the social media universe, talking up or shooting down your company, with an endless audience of peer consumers just one Google search away. The potential impact on your brand and bottom line is breathtaking.”
Because consumers now have unprecedented power through social media channels, companies have to play by consumers’ rules, notes the whitepaper. That means focusing on engagement, empowerment, and relationships—and steering clear of one-way company sales pitches or irrelevant information that fails to fully meet customer needs.
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The whitepaper also focuses on social customer relationship management (CRM), defined by TeleTech’s Taylor Allis as “a collaborative conversation between a brand or company and its constituents—a conversation in which the company engages in a two-way dialogue that provides value and deepens the quality of the relationship.”
Social CRM, as defined by TeleTech, is the intersection of three separate and powerful forces:
1. Customer communities on the Web, hosted by companies;
2. Social networks outside of the organization that are driven by customers (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and independent forums); and
3. Traditional CRM channels and systems.
To build a successful social CRM program, organizations must understand and leverage these three key consumer interaction channels. With all three, the ultimate goal is the same: to leverage intelligence to build the organization’s relationship with its users, and convert naysayers or brand agnostics into brand advocates.
“Many companies are creating specific programs to transform customers into brand advocates,” notes TeleTech, “offering them official ‘certification’ as a product expert and giving them special access to company and product developments. In return, these active users enable companies to continuously assess and measure feedback from their strongest and most loyal customers, allowing organizations to refine their products and services, and get even closer to the consumer.”
There are some practices to avoid, however. Key social CRM “don’ts” according to TeleTech are:
● Don’t dominate the conversation. Respect consumer autonomy and allow consumers to actively engage with one another in forums and on Web boards, rather than constantly jumping in and interfering.
● Don’t over-promote. Don’t market products and brands aggressively in social media forums and on Web boards.
● Don’t misrepresent yourself. Company representatives should identify themselves as part of the organization.
● Don’t censor. Don’t delete or change negative comments about the company, unless they are offensive in nature.
But the rewards for effective use of social media are many, including:
● Encouraging issue resolution through lower-cost channels—self-service, peer-to-peer dialogue, email, and chat—reducing the need to call the contact center;
● Promoting continuous conversation among consumers, and between the organization and consumers to drive engagement;
● Creating a social media knowledge base to supplement and integrate into your traditional CRM knowledge base;
● Developing brand advocates who convert other consumers into buyers; and
● Up-selling when resolving consumer issues through social media channels.
For savvy organizations that execute Social CRM correctly, says TeleTech, the return on investment can be compelling in the immediate and long-term. “Companies can cut costs by empowering consumers to help themselves and each other, or resolve their issues through lower-cost, more effective channels such as a virtual agent or click-to-chat—reducing calls into higher-touch, higher-cost contact centers.
“For the companies that succeed, the benefits can be both profound and game-changing,” adds the white paper, “including better understanding your customer base, developing an army of devoted brand advocates, and creating dynamic new revenue engines and efficiencies.”