Getting closer to customers is a top priority for every businesses. Today’s businesses are fervently building social media programs to do just this. But are customers as enthusiastic? Actually, most do not engage with companies via social media simply to feel connected. It turns out, customers are far more pragmatic. To successfully exploit the potential of social media, companies need to design experiences that deliver tangible value in return for customers’ time, attention, endorsement and data.
For most consumers, social media is about engaging with friends and family and accessing news and entertainment – not interacting with
With the worldwide explosion of social media usage, businesses are feeling extreme pressure to be where their customers are. Today, this hub of customer activity is increasingly virtual, located inside a social media or social networking site. But in an environment defined by customer control and two-way dialogue, are customers and businesses in sync with each other’s expectations? Consider the speed at which social media is being adopted by consumers and businesses alike. 2010 saw staggering numbers. There were more than 500 million active users on Facebook, 70 % outside the United States.By March 2010, more than 10 billion messages, or Tweets, had been sent through Twitter since its launch in 2006. By July, that number had doubled to 20 billion. And in the Asia-Pacific region, 50 % of the total online population visited a social networking site in February 2010, reaching a total of 240.3 million visitors.
Clearly, this is where customers are congregating and businesses want to be. Social media holds enormous potential for companies to get closer to customers and, by doing so, facilitate increased revenue, cost reduction and efficiencies.
The advocacy paradox
Is it the chicken or the egg? Businesses are betting that social media interactions will engender increased customer loyalty. However, many
consumers say they need to be passionate before they’ll engage, and they are split regarding how much influence they think these interactions will have.
As might be expected, social media initiatives are quickly springing up across organisations. However, using social media as a channel for customer engagement raises interesting challenges for traditional CRM approaches. CRM strategy, enabled by processes and technologies, is architected to manage customer relationships as a means for extracting the greatest value from customers over the lifetime of the relationship. These strategies typically concentrate on the operational responses required to manage the customer. With social media, though, companies are no longer in control of the relationship. Instead, customers (and their highly influential virtual networks) are now driving the conversation, which can trump a company’s marketing, sales and service efforts with unprecedented immediacy and reach.
Companies need to embrace this shift with a new strategy: Social CRM, which recognizes that instead of managing customers, the role of the business is to facilitate collaborative experiences and dialogue that customers value.
A successful Social CRM strategy facilitates collaborative experiences and dialogue that customers value.
It is understandable why companies want to use social media to interact with customers. The benefits are real and deep. First, there is the social interaction itself, which can provide direct value to the business through revenue from social commerce and cost savings when used for customer care or research, for example. Plus, social networking enables rapid, viral distribution of offers and content that may reach beyond what could be done in traditional channels – all with endorsement from connections people trust. But that is just the beginning.
Companies also can use social platforms to mine data for brand monitoring and valuable customer insights, which can spark innovations for improved services, products and customer experiences. In a constant cycle of listen-analyze-engageevolve, organizations can optimize their social media programs to continually enhance their business.
With so much to gain, companies need to invest the effort to understand how to break through the noise and offer current and potential customers a reason to reach out to them via social media. Businesses, eager to get closer to customers, are building pages on social networking sites, posting videos and mircoblogging; however, if they don’t focus on what the majority of their customers value in social media, they may be missing the boat. In fact, offering tangible value to consumers may be the strongest incentive to attract the 75 % of Casual Participants who need a good reason to interact.
For companies that have been taking a “build it and they will come” approach to social media, these consumer findings are a wake-up call that much more needs to be done if they want to attract more than the most devoted brand advocates.
A social media strategy is not the same as a Social CRM strategy
Companies are building foundations for social media strategies, but Social CRM strategies are not yet fully realized. The operational components are somewhat more challenging and addressing them will bring the next level of social media maturity for many companies. If companies want to unlock the potential of social media to reinvent their customer relationships, they need to think about CRM in a new light while building a strategic and operational framework that provides both structure and flexibility.
The implications for business are significant. The shift to Social CRM is more than an adoption of new operational models or technologies; it is a philosophical, cultural shift. Social CRM is a strategy for stewardship of the customer relationship, not management.