Author: Robin Long
Social media has transformed how businesses interact and engage with customers. It has rapidly become the go-to source in determining brand health, as a means of capturing, retaining, and growing a customer base. According to social media statistics, 58.4% of the world’s population use social media for an average of 2 hours and 27 minutes daily.
With that number only forecasted to increase in the next few years, it has become overwhelmingly important to include a social media strategy as part of a robust customer experience (CX) program. Social media helps businesses cultivate their brand personality so they can meaningfully connect with their target audience, improve the overall customer experience, grow their base, and ultimately intervene quickly when a crisis may arrive.
These days, social media shouldn’t be seen as just a marketing tool. Instead, it needs to be an organization-wide method for measuring customer engagement, loyalty, sentiment, and a place to interact with customers in a meaningful, authentic manner.
Why is a Social Media Strategy Important?
Social media is a window into the heart of your customers. Their wants, needs, likes, dislikes, and frustrations are visible as free-flowing, real-time responses to your brand. Social media promotes customer feedback and makes it easy for customers to share their experiences. It’s a way to see what’s happening in real-time today and catch sight of what could happen tomorrow.
Through this new age of instant gratification, you can respond quickly to positive, neutral, or negative feedback, educate your audience, and address customer questions and concerns.
As the market changes, social listening has become paramount in defining and setting the stage for your brand to fail or succeed. Integrating social media is not only crucial to a successful CX strategy, it also builds your presence online into a thriving digital community.
Sixty-eight percent of consumers agree that social media enables them to interact with brands and companies, 55% of consumers learn about new brands on social, and 62% believe brands need a robust social presence to succeed in the long run.
When developing your social media plan of action, there are three major areas to be prepared to act on:
- Define what the brand stands for
- Determine a strategy for social media, including a plan to listen
- Be ready to engage when a crisis happens
Creating a Public Persona
Define brand personality. Brands have a difficult time finding the right voice on social channels. The key is being human and engaging in order to win over customers and make the organization memorable.
Engage with customers. Often, organizations struggle to engage with customers. Creating an authentic voice through genuine human involvement can significantly drive engagement and loyalty.
Be a storyteller. The brand’s narrative is a compelling background that illustrates who you are. Tell the story of how the company came to be and use this as a way to engage customers online. Then, make them part of the future by inviting feedback and comments on that narrative.
[Business Insight: Harnessing a Journey Map to Empower Your Customer Experience Strategy]
Social Media Listening
Once the brand vision and mission are clear on social channels, it’s time to listen. Social listening allows one to understand exactly what current and potential customers think about a company, brand, or product by analyzing what they say on social media. It’s also a good way to learn what they think about the competition.
Understand your audience. Understanding the target audience is vital in determining the message to convey through social media. By researching an audience’s interests, intent to purchase, and subcultures, a social media team will be able to curate their messages to that audience, making them more effective.
Determine what to listen for. Knowing what to listen for is crucial in collecting useful data. Is it the customer’s opinion on the product? Or is it how they’re responding to a new campaign? Listening is all of the below:
- Brand mentions
- Competitor mentions
- Industry trends
- Relevant hashtags
Having a clear idea of what you want to learn from the treasure trove of data captured using social media will reduce the unnecessary noise.
Act on social data. After analyzing social data, it’s essential to use the findings to develop action plans that will increase brand sentiment and other key metrics. If the social conversation is favorable, work to find out exactly what customers enjoy.
If your business has unhappy customers, explore what’s wrong and look for ways to change your product descriptions, prices, or features. It could also mean adopting other marketing strategies to better educate customers on offerings.
[Success Story: A national telecom company needed RevGen’s help to operationalize their Voice of Customer program.]
A successful crisis plan is proactive. It aims to reduce the risk of a crisis happening in the first place by anticipating potential problems. While crises still happen, 78% of consumers are willing to buy from a company after having a positive experience with them on social.
Acknowledge and take ownership. Take ownership and let customers know the company is working to get it resolved quickly and correctly. Confront problems head-on.
Respond quickly and efficiently. Silence on social media will bloom like wildfire into a much larger issue if no one acknowledges problems quickly. Respond to the question or concern; if there isn’t a clear answer, that’s ok. Be transparent and authentic, and let customers know — publicly — that the company is working on the issue and the steps being taken.
Listen to catch issues early. Before a crisis, signs or trends are usually developing online. Listen for them. Your customer is letting you know exactly the problem around the corner. Collect these insights to stave off a crisis before it begins.
A company can build its legacy through social media. Finding a target audience, listening effectively to customers, and having an action plan for an eventual crisis are all critical. More than that, though, it’s crucial to use social media as a tool to monitor sentiment and strengthen brand trust, ultimately reaping long-term dividends.
Not sure where to start with your social media strategy? Contact one of our CX experts today or visit our Customer Experience page to see what additional services we offer.
Robin Long is a senior consultant at RevGen Partners specializing in customer experience. She is passionate about helping organizations build successful VoC programs that turn customer understanding into positive business results.