I’ve been thinking quite a bit about social media recently and examining how companies are using it in different ways and to different extents. I sketched down some notes as I went along and thought I’d share some of them here.
Much of this comes from my experiences at Facebook, an introspective on what people care about and what they’re impressed by, and much inspiration from Vaynerchuk’s book “The Thank You Economy (the de facto bible for social media).
I envisage a hierarchical ranking of how deep a company actively utilises social media; consider it a scorecard for measuring how a business (maybe yours) is currently tracking and where it might want to progress to.
A business has identified that they should do something. This might be a local business owner who is conscious of competitors starting to get social, or an executive type who continues to read journal articles about this thing called Facebook. As an alcoholic might say, half the battle is to identify you have a problem. The majority of businesses are not even at this stage.
The business has figured out how to create and use a simple Twitter account or Facebook Page. They’ve populated it with some basic information such as a logo and a link back to their site. They might have made the odd post here and there.
They’ve optimised and fully populated their account with photos, information, a custom landing page and provided useful and somewhat compelling content. The business is using their new found social identity to push out messages, that are typically promotional in nature, or make claim to their own greatness. They’ve probably excluded the ability for users to interact, or at least leave comments on their wall; it’s deemed far too risky for their brand to communicate beyond the boiler plate marketing message and letting users write comments in front of a public audience is regarded as ludicrous.
So they’ve figured out that it’s good to talk. They respond proactively to messages and interact with users. However, they have a heart attack when they see bad feedback and try to either remove it from the public eye or quash the complaint with pitiful excuses. I’d propose that most businesses who think they’re doing something social are really just at this stage.
An understanding that bad feedback isn’t so bad. Perversely, bad feedback can be really beneficial in the new world of social media; it provides great information on how the business can improve and getting their (public) response right can send out positive vibes to everyone else too (think about all major crisis and how disappointment usually responds to how they communicated and not just their actions).
They’ve become humanised. They’ll say sorry, confess that they’ve screwed up and make use of the occasional smiley. They stay true and make it always clear that there’s people behind the brand and that they give a damn. Unhappy customers make them unhappy, so they want to correct the problem and not fob them off. They invite a complaining customer to come back and try them again (with an incentive) or solicit them to talk more about their experience.
They actively solicit customers to be vocal. I was recently chatting with a friend about the TripAdvisor effect. We’ve spotted some restaurants actively encourage users to provide reviews on their website, menu and at the till. A high volume of feedback with a strong average is ridiculously powerful. It’s amazing how businesses with a huge volume of email addresses are never utilised (think of all those hotel registration cards you’ve filled in). Don’t spam people, but send a personal note and suggest that they should engage to help future customers. Those who really get this will make it clear that they welcome the customer to leave a good or bad review and that’ll respect them all the same.
Get entrenched in the industry. Watch your competitors and understand what customers like/need/want.
Look beyond their own industry. Marathon freebie. Cool to those even not involved. Proactive reward outbound.
Track impact. It’s notoriously difficult to measure the ROI of social media activities, but certainly not impossible. Look at your own retention/churn rates. Measure the reach of your messaging. Identify individual cases where a happy customer has influenced your business. I’d argue that this level isn’t even necessary as the ROI should be self-evident from the outset, which is why I place this at a higher level – it shouldn’t be fundamental.
Use CRM and get sophisticated. Tag disgruntled customers. Tag your best customers. Tag prospective customers. Get to know them, follow them on Twitter. Vaynerchuk talks about a company who rewarded a good customer not with a free product or discount, but tickets to a baseball game, because they know there were in town and loved baseball (thanks to Twitter); sure, it was more expensive, but you bet it made a much larger impression.
It’s not just digital. No amount of nice words will get you out of a sinking ship if the service sucks. Sure, provide special care to high value customers, but don’t discredit the power of anyone. The culture of unparalleled customer service and carte needs to be spread throughout the entire organisation. The hotel maid who leaves a personal note in the room, the surprise amuse-bouche and a simple smile make the world of difference.
Ditch the self-interest identity. Not sure if this is the holy grail step, but I’m sure it’s hardest for a company to stomach. The notion is to care not just about your existing customers and trying to win over prospective customers, but to want just every consumers in your market to be satisfied. So if you’re a 5* hotel and in a position to respond to someone looking for a budget stay, then make a recommendation to a hotel other than your own. An easier example to grasp would be to give three options (including your own) to someone wanting a hotel recommendation near a specific location. You could suggest why you think you’re the best choice, but it’d be better to lead to customer to see it for themselves on social media and respect their intelligence to make the right choice. The hotel’s concierge could offer assistance to all passing tourists; you’d gain the reputation of being the friendly, helpful hotel and it’ll pay back handsomely in the long-run.
What do you think? Any glaring omissions?