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We’re in the era of building the infrastructure necessary for social business to succeed. Eventually it will bring benefits and rewards to both brands and consumers alike. However, there are some steps brands can take now to ensure they don’t confuse consumers as they evolve from social media to social business. One important perspective that can get lost in the buzz over social marketing, social crm, or social innovation initiatives is arguably, the most important one: the customer perspective.
Here are some tips to ensure you’re making sure customers are informed and aware of what your social business initiatives WILL andWILL NOT do for them.
Tell Your Brand’s Social Business Story
There are many departments and groups within a company. It’s now common for each of them to have social initiatives of their own, albeit they may be independent of one another, in a silo away from the rest of the organization. Do these provide value to the customer? Sure, but how does an individual really know about everything a company is doing in social that they may benefit from?
Companies have long published directories to help customers get in touch to the department they need via phone. In digital, they produce sitemaps on their websites for the same purpose. What can they do to help people understand their fragmented landscape of social outposts? Tell their social business story! This will educate consumers, raise awareness of their efforts, and remove any confusion over where/what/when their social business initiatives are.
An example of a brand that is telling their social business story well is Dell. Just visit the ‘”Dell in Social Media” section of dell.com and you’re able to learn everything about Dell’s social business activities, with links and descriptions to their social outposts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Slideshare, Xing), their communities for owners and clubs, or even Dell’s official global social media policy.
Share Service and Support Expectations
Many companies are realizing the benefit of social technologies for customer support and developing formal social business initiatives for doing so. It can be a great benefit, and provide better/faster/cheaper service to customers under the right circumstances. However, it’s easier said than done. Especially when consumer expectations are rapidly moving closer to instant gratification.
Social platforms never sleep. They don’t turn off (usually). They are constantly moving forward, with a seemingly infinite stream of activity, discussion and sharing. That preconditions consumer expectations when dealing with a formal brand presence via social, into near real-time resolutions of customer problems. And when a brand cannot live up to such a high standard, it sets the stage for a negative customer experience.
Brands can avoid this by setting expectations for service and response times up front. For example, if you’re supporting customers via Twitter, define hours of operation. The Microsoft Xbox and the Bank of America customer support teams have done a terrific job of this, providing support hours directly in the Twitter profile description, as well as the background image for their profile page.
Curate Conversations About Your Brand
Consumer trust is has evolved. Consumers are actively seeking “people like me”, to understand their opinions, preferences and perspectives on brands, products and services. Brands all have a story, and tell that story through branded content through paid and owned media. What can brands do to help provide consumers with what “people like them” are saying about the brand? Curate conversations that meet the consumer need and make it easily accessible for them to consumer and digest.
Ford recently launched the new, redesigned Explorer SUV. While they have been curating consumer reaction and conversation about their products for awhile now, I point you to the Explorer home page as an example of a brand curating content that matters. Visit the Ford Explorer Buzz page to see the curated results of reactions from media sites, blogs, forums, etc… about the new product.