Customer insight can be gained in the most interesting of places, at a recent event, while sitting down and enjoying my pre-conference breakfast, my fellow conference attendees started asking me questions about the trails and tribulations of how to use and not use social media for their businesses. With commentary ranging from “Well how can social media lead to sales” to “how do you counter negative complaints through social media” to “social media is just akin to a highway traffic update sign, once you’ve seen it, the traffic up ahead has already changed.”
After an interesting exchange of ideas and further debate on how to best use social media in the way of the social consumer, the conversion of the negative naysayer to the loyal brand advocate to aligning business objectives with social media objectives so that you’re not doing social media for the sake of being social (and hence missing the impending road signs on your road to social media engagement) – I was struck by the common thread of our discussion over french croissants and coffee – the overriding concern from my table was “how do you empower your employees to use social media properly and to align it with business objectives?”
Empowering employees? Business Objectives? Yes, Social Media needs to address both to work efficiently and more importantly to the best interests of the consumer (read social consumer). Consumers nowadays are leaving digital breadcrumbs strewn across their path to purchase intent via the content they consume, SEO results, reviews and social interactions – therefor it is more pressing than ever that company employees understand the value of the social customer, their customer.
Employees, given the right training and governance / policy structures (be in tin the form of a social media guide book or a one line premise, such at the New York Times which instructs staff to “Don’t be stupid”) provides the framework / foundation to allow employees to externally advocate the company’s message, leadership and mission via the social network.
Once a social media policy framework has been set, facilitate an ARM approach (act, re-act and manage) approach: engage with the audience, experiment, let your brand’s personality shine via the organizations talent of specialists, engineers, stylists and evangelists. Now that each employee or a group of employees (the social media response team, taken from various departments) has been enabled to interact via the social network, you’ve accomplished step one: the implementation of the internal training and policy needed to form the basis of a social business.
Step two: review with business leaders and every department that touches upon the customer (marcom, legal, HR, customer care, product development, etc.) to understand and align a social media strategy to recognize social media as an integrated approach to interacting with the customer measured by business metrics.
Let’s start with the grassroots engagement level – the employees that have been empowered to interact with the social customer – this layer aligns engagement data with the firms business objectives, set and chart a course to gain fans, followers, check-ins and overall interactions.
Next level up, business stakeholders, the business unit leaders – map out how to integrate and implement social media into customer service responsiveness and share of conversation.
The final level that needs to be addressed is the ever important business executive cluster, the ones funding and signing your social media team’s cheques – make sure the social media activities are aligned with CSAT and revenue – this is where the increasing importance of the concept of “social care” comes into play.
To enable and empower your organization to use social media with the right training and policies to engage with customers is the first crucial step in overcoming your fears as to how your organization can use social media in the first place. Secondly, make sure each social media activity is aligned with business goals and objectives.
These two elements are critical factors to success for any business starting down the path towards the social media highway. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.