Thursday, 10 January 2013

Avoiding the Dangers of Social Media to Your Customer Relationships

The ways in which customers engage with brands has changed. No longer is it a one-way relationship interspersed with the occasional interactions, today it is two-way discourse, carried out through multiple channels. Of these channels, one that has had a growing effect on engagement is social media.

In most business sectors and in both B2B and B2C contexts, social media has permeated marketing and communications. But whilst the importance of social media has been widely acknowledged, there is still a large number of businesses out there that don’t understand social media, do not know how it should be measured, or aren’t fully equipped to utilise social media for marketing to, or communicating with, customers.
This lack of understanding can have detrimental consequences, resulting in misleading expectations as to what social media should be achieving.  In the wake of failing unrealistic goals, it can also lead to the abandonment of social media as a channel in favour of more pressing, instantly rewarding marketing such as PPC or advertising.

The issue here is that running social media poorly, or half-heartedly following a failed attempt can have a disastrous impact on a business, its customer relationships and its reputation. Equally damaging can be a willingness to use social media, but a reluctance to dedicate sufficient budget to running a campaign, or investing in the time to integrate social media within the existing mix of channels and communication strategy – both are key in building customer relationships and enhancing retention.

These issues are prevalent across business, with companies jumping head first into social media without understanding how to leverage the best results, or deliver a level of customer care commensurate with other communications channels. In one recent study conducted by Forrester Research, a survey of 7,000 consumers found that majority of brands were only achieving an “okay” or “very poor” ranking for their social media management. Ratings demonstrating that whilst brands are happy to jump on the bandwagon, few are delivering an outstanding customer experience through the channel.

So what can businesses do if they want to realise the opportunity that social media offers whilst avoiding these pitfalls? 

One option is to recruit an internal resource to conduct social media activities, but with a wealth of experts, evangelists and gurus out there, it can be difficult to realise precisely what skills you are looking for. Proficiency with the various social media platforms is essential, but you may also want to consider looking for a more rounded marketing skill set; one that includes strategy, analytics, reporting, customer services and communications.

Another option is to outsource social media to a customer relationship agency. This provides access to experts in the field that know how to deliver exceptional customer service across multiple channels. It also ensures that customers are receiving a consistent level of care and offers the assurance that your brand reputation is in safe and capable hands.

Clearly social media is becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix and vital to the way that customer relationships are managed and maintained. Ignore it and your business risks being left behind. Fail to invest in and implement it effectively however and you could be risking much more.