The Ripple Effect: Social media for a deeper understanding of your customers

Michael Roach, Technology Practitioner, Social Media Business Boosters

As consumer behaviours change along with fast-evolving social media, businesses can be better equipped to succeed in digital marketing. The ‘social web’ now has a firm grip on how consumers are buying and behaving around companies, products and each other. In the last three to five years social media has changed the way businesses position themselves online and offline in ways that are vital to discover and understand. The simple gateway to success is to start elevating social media beyond a broadcast channel. Consumers are conducting a ‘war on noise’ and the digital filters built by email providers and social platforms are getting better which presents a new set of challenges. GET BETTER AT ENGAGEMENT AND RETENTION The shift for companies that are adapting to the new operating environment is towards ‘people, not page views’. Businesses can start by tracking what each customer does before and after they become your customers. This helps to understand how valuable they are to you. The key aspects to look out for are: • How your customers are behaving in the buying process; • How you are personalising the experience for the customer; • How developed is your company voice and authenticity? Businesses are beginning to capture data to skyrocket customer retention rates and build new business. According to the Customer Service Institute, 65 per cent of a company’s business comes from existing customers, and it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one satisfied. Investigate: Whilst a single unified digital marketing suite is still some time off, business can still access sophisticated tools that do some or all of the above. Research which vendors best tie in with your marketing activities: Lithium is an example of brand monitoring, community management and social media management software for the enterprise (; Salesforce are continuing to push social and build out their CMS, CRM and brand monitoring platform (; Facebook and Twitter continue to be the source of fans and followers in these mainstay social networks. These platforms have both added advanced features to deeply integrate social activity with your website and phone applications ( and Investigate these features to enable social activity, feedback and sharing on your website. GET BETTER AT PERSONALISING THE EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR CUSTOMER While the need to influence consumer behaviour is nothing new, “the consumer is king” has become a reality as social media permeates every step of the pre and post buying decision. Personal recommendations have always been a part of e-commerce (e.g.Amazon, Netflix and eBay) and social media is now beginning to provide even more indepth purchase data that can be mined by retailers to help increase sales. Analysts call personalisation the differentiating factor in e-commerce and digital commerce going forward, especially for multichannel retailers and new entrants online. Retailers need to both anticipate what consumers may want to purchase on the site but also provide items that consumers will be able to feel like they ‘discovered’ on the site. One approach by U.S. based Pandora Radio is to get the customer to assist in ‘making the experience better’ by presenting a personalised item suggestion but asking: if the recommendation is not correct how can we make it better. It is well known that customers are more interested in a shopping experience that knows their preferences. If they are asked to improve the system in a tactical way with the assistance of website and social technologies it will result in a win-win. Investigate: For the customers who purchase from a specific place less frequently, businesses struggle to collate enough data on an individual to actually help personalise the experience. The challenge for retailers is to get better at personalising the experience for consumers and social media can offer help for business. As we discussed above, retailers are increasingly installing social plugins from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a number of others on their websites. This allows visitors to see what their friends bought or shared, what products relate to their Likes or Twitter interests, and to select friends they might want to invite to browse with them. Business should understand the Facebook newsfeed better to serve information to shoppers in a useful, personalised format. Whilst a lot of data is kept from Facebook users, Facebook Insights can prove useful for determining your customers that are advocates. This is an area which will evolve in 2013. For example, Facebook is rumoured to be testing a “Want” button on its social network to supplement the “Like” button which has become almost synonymous with the company in recent years. There is tremendous potential in developers and retailers being able to mine this data from ‘wants’ as opposed to the open-ended ‘like.’ Businesses should also understand and refine tagging and social location data - utilising tools like Foursquare, Facebook/Instagram, Twitter to build a coherent picture. GET BETTER AT COMPANY VOICE AND AUTHENTICITY Establishing mindshare, building goodwill and a sense of transparency deeply connects consumers with retailers. One such challenge facing business is your company voice and authenticity in your social marketing. How do you guide the employee who posts to a personal Facebook profile or a Twitter account and occasionally mentions work? How do you manage online reputation of your services or products? The keys to poor reputation management are easily seen by looking at social media ‘fails’ and include these ingredients that can derail social media quickly: • Social media presences that seem to quickly stray from their intended purpose. There is no clarity and consumers feel like they aren’t been ‘taken along for the ride’ with the company. • Social media engagement and community management has been (a) delegated to multiple disparate teams with the dreaded sense of “just getting some updates out there so customers know we’re alive” or (b) delegated to a junior staff member with no broad understanding of business objectives. • Social media engagement has been given to a contractor or agency to look after whilst forgetting that onboarding can and should take longer than a few hours. Investigate: Businesses are being forced to present a consistent company voice. Establishing and managing a set of social accounts on a variety of platforms requires a distinct social media team at the helm. Will this team operate in relative isolation or deeply integrate with your business objectives? Businesses might begin by asking “when reputation management issues arise, how do you quickly identify and coordinate the digitally savvy team members to respond effectively and on message?” and support this by guidelines and a clear definition of How, Why, Where, and What for your company voice. A key step for business is to examine the tools and techniques available to help personalise your customers’ experiences so your brand is better integrated into their lives. By offering them better choices – contextualised and data informed - you achieve another win-win for lead generation. Your digital team will be the first port of call to optimise the flow and quality of information exchange on each platform. In line with the rapid pace of social media, business can and should create reports on the fly based on their user behaviours and tie it to revenue. Neglecting to study how people are interacting with your business places you firmly on the back foot. Social media has changed the way consumers brands and products and data capture has allowed online retailers (in the main) to contextualise information for the buyer. There is a need for this to now extend to all brands. An authentic approach that puts the company on equal footing with the consumer is becoming the best way of quickly achieving rich, personal, and substantive relationships that support companies. Customers are also coming along for this ride, if you let them. A helpful starting point is to look at what “social businesses” are doing online: • Listens to what its customers have to say and is eager to receive feedback. • Negative feedback is acknowledged and addressed in an honest and transparent way. • They look at opportunities to involve customers in the product development cycle. • A social business does not simply sell products, it sells customer experience. Michael J Roach is a technologist and digital practitioner working with Franchising International. He has previously presented Culturelink World Conference in Croatia and has worked internationally for corporate clients including Kimberly-Clark. Michael is an active follower of industry developments and presents a weekly radio show covering global trends at Social Media Business Boosters is an international franchise focused on helping entrepreneurs to establish successful social media marketing businesses. 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