Many companies fear engaging with their customers via social media channels. However, Mike Amos, President and CEO of Empathica, a pioneer in the growing customer experience management sector, argues that organisations have a golden opportunity to use social media to ensure messages of great service are spread far and wide.
There are many benefits to be gained by adopting a social media strategy. Social media permits a more direct and open relationship with customers, faster measurement of marketplace response, better co-ordinated marketing activities and improved customer service. However, business use of social media is in its infancy and organisations will have to work hard to maximise their potential in this area.
Fragmentation of the media
The media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. If we could travel back in time to 1970, the world would seem a very different place. Consumers had very little choice in terms of the products available to them and businesses who wanted to reach out to existing or potential customers were restricted to a few communication channels. Leap forward to 2010 and the fragmentation of media has forever changed the landscape, with social media at the heart of the most recent developments.
Today, businesses not only have the option of traditional advertising methods, but a wealth of other communication channels. In 2007, 50% of all media was digital and this is expected to rise to 66% by the end of 2010 and to an astonishing 80% by 2020, according to statistics from the World Association of Newspapers.
The increase in digital technologies means that businesses can reach out and talk with consumers via a number of channels in a multitude of formats. These conversations will cover not only the products and services they have or might purchase, but also their overall experience as consumers. Recent developments have meant that engaging with customers via social media is now a valuable tool to help understand their needs and wants.
The impact of social media
The rapid growth of social media activities through sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, means consumers can not only share their thoughts with the company directly but also with other consumers. This allows customers to voice their opinions and experiences with brands to a much wider audience.
Naturally, this scares many organisations as there is no control over the message, which can be particularly worrying for public companies with shareholders. However, social media also represents a significant opportunity for businesses to begin a dialogue with customers and respond quickly to complaints to minimise the impact of negative feedback.
Social media can also provide the opportunity for businesses to harness positive feedback from customers. A 2009 survey by The Nielsen Company found that consumers trust their friends’ opinions more than that of the brand. 90% of those surveyed said they trust completely or somewhat the recommendations of people they know, while 70% said they trust consumer opinions posted online.
This compared with only 62% who trusted television advertising and 55% who trusted billboards/outdoor advertising. This research highlights the power of ‘word of mouth’ recommendations made via social media networks.
With these statistics in mind, organisations can benefit greatly from having a platform to share customer feedback. If a customer has a ‘wow’ experience they need to be able to share their experiences via a social media platform.
Many brands are failing to take full advantage of the social media space, with less than 20% of organisations planning to use social media in their advertising strategy, according to a 2009 survey by Always On and KPMG. This will be a missed opportunity for many of those organisations.
Companies that are willing to embrace social media as part of their marketing strategy will be well positioned to improve customer engagement, give their brand advocates a platform to broadcast their positive experiences, and ultimately boost their brands and drive sales.
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