In the September 30 issue of Marketing News, regular columnist Don E. Schultz (professor emeritus of integrated marketing communications at Northwestern University) makes a cogent argument that the emphasis on the boxcar numbers being reported by Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other new media companies are nothing more than “fool’s gold” if marketers continue to use old, outdated, traditional marketing and communication concepts to evaluate and address social customers.
His point is that too many marketers see those huge numbers and start to think that they are all prospects, when “all of those Web user’s eyes and ears and even fingers may be just that: eyes and ears and fingers, not product or service prospects and certainly not customers. He goes on to say that in too many situations, marketers are treating the new media forms as if they were simply extensions of old traditional media, when they aren’t.
In traditional marketing, consumers are somewhat willing to give an advertiser some of their time in exchange for free entertainment or information. The key difference today is that social media are personal media. As Professor Schultz describes this scenario, “you, as the marketer, need to be invited into the social circle that I have created. You can’t just barge in, open the door to my house, sit down at the table and start to eat my birthday cake”. (You can read the full article here http://bit.ly/bPTKgf)
One way for marketers to address this new reality is to reorient your customer service to engage with customers in the chaotic world of social media. Your customers are already there. Isn’t it about time for you to join the conversation?
That’s where Social CRM comes into play. Businesses need to understand the social customer and integrate that knowledge into their customer service approach if they want to reach and engage them in a meaningful way. The social customer owns the relationship, and you need to earn their trust.
There are a lot of definitions, theories and discussions out there about Social CRM (type Social CRM into Google and you get almost 4 million hits), but most of them agree on one important conclusion – social customers are different and they must be communicated with in a different way. This means that businesses must do more that simply set up a Facebook page or Twitter account and use their traditional push sales tactics to reach them. Marketers must understand that these new media options are “negotiated, not persuasive, media forms” as Professor Schultz describes them. “They aren’t channels through which to sell things; they are systems and networks and methods by which people maintain social contact in an increasingly impersonal world”.
But Social CRM isn’t just a business transformation of traditional CRM. It’s a whole new ballgame according to Paul Greenberg, author of CRM at the Speed of Light. He calls it a revolution in how we communicate, not just in how we do business.
Mr. Greenberg says that Social CRM must “engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide a mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company response to the customer’s owning of the relationship.” For marketers to succeed, they must understand, appreciate and respond to the fact that the expectations that social customers have when it comes to communicating with your company are different.
Here are just a few of those notable communication differences and how they impact those expectations.
The social customer consumes and evaluates information in a different way. They learn about breaking news through Twitter and Facebook, not their local newspaper or TV anchor. In similar fashion, they learn about new products and brands through social channels. Importantly, studies shows that they are more likely to trust their social network to provide honest feedback about it, as opposed to a brand’s one-way advertising message, unless you’ve built a trust relationship with them beforehand.
The social customer is open to relevant information that meets his or her needs at that particular moment, but doesn’t respond well to unsolicited SPAM or overly promotional tweets. They expect that brands will be present and active in the same social venues as themselves, but in a very different way. They expect those brands to be listening to their feedback, whether it’s negative or positive, and engaging with them. And they expect companies to respond fast, in real-time, or they might move on to a competitor, or tell their friends about their bad experiences with your brand.
The social customer expects everyone they talk to from your company to have the same background on their issue and the same ability to solve their problem. Customers don’t care what department they are in, they just want their problem solved. This means that they expect the person they are speaking with to know something about them. And if they speak to a different person in your company, they expect them to know it as well. This can create a major challenge for companies that have not fully committed their total enterprise to the new marketing environment for customer service and to the concept of Social CRM.
Social CRM is more than just the latest marketing buzzword. SCRM adds a whole new dimension to the traditional view of customer relationship management. The focus should be on people and not technology. It’s about joining the ongoing conversations that your customers and prospects are already engaged in and adding value to that conversation, not trying to control it.
Even thought Social CRM requires new thinking, new approaches and new processes, it is based on the age-old truism that people like doing business with people they like and trust. Is your marketing taking advantage of this new opportunity? Or is Social CRM just another buzzword to you?
SPECIAL NOTE: If you want to gain some additional insights on today’s hyper-social and connected consumer, don’t’ miss the October PSAMA luncheon on Oct. 6. This month’s speaker is Joel Book, Principal, Marketing Research & Education Group at Exact Target. His presentation is titled “Fueling the Conversation with Customers”, and promises to show how innovative companies are leveraging the unique strengths of digital media to attract, engage, and retain customers. Visit the PSAMA website for more details on the luncheon.
- Don Morgan, Raindance Consulting
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