Social media, both customer-facing and internal collaboration–based, is extremely important for businesses today. How should we leverage it, and how should social data be included in the larger technology, process, data, and analytics strategy of any firm?
To come up with the answers, let's look at the situation from two angles: business drivers and customer interaction and analytics.
There are three business drivers to consider:
- Acquisition through better education, comparison, and influence
- Retention through better service and interaction
- Product innovation through analysis of expressed and implied needs
Business drivers will vary by organization, but a clear distinction should be made between long-term and short-term objectives. All interim initiatives and measurement must align with the longer-term goals, which will more or less align with the drivers identified above.
Customer Interaction and Analytics
Next, let's look at interaction and analytics. Customers must perceive differentiation among brands. They must feel heard and respected. These sentiments offer an opportunity for influencing top-line drivers from both direct and indirect methods. Direct influence is more commonly known and measured. This is when customers engage and increase their investments in your product portfolio. Indirect influence is what organizations are still trying to refine and master. This is when customers'actions are influenced by others' opinions and experiences. Indirect drivers have the potential to provide a multiplier effect by providing a self-sustaining, powerful marketing and sales advocacy engine, which is the real power of social data. What are the parameters to achieve these objectives? Social interaction and analytics can both be leveraged to achieve this. Consider the following key dimensions:
Outbound broadcasts. Most commonly known and widely practiced, this provides company-curated information on cultural, product, service, promotions, and business aspects of the organization. While this effort does not maximize the use of the social channel, it probably is the bare minimum activity level a business must strive for.
Engagement tool kits. An engagement tool kit provides avenues for customers to interact. Tool kits must always be designed from the perspective of consumer engagement over social channels. Are product selectors an engagement tool kit? Absolutely, but building in sharing aspects on the selectors is a much-needed evolution for the social channel. Tapping into sentiments expressed, recent topics being discussed, emerging trends on key priorities, and ability to share and forward promotions are all aspects of building an engagement tool kit which looks at leveraging the power of the social channel.
Linkage with the broader ecosystem. As we leverage social data, it is important to note that customers have needs outside of your products and line of business. Insurance, banking, retail, travel, and media all have products that your consumers interact with on an almost daily basis. How can you build stickiness so your channel becomes a destination for customers, instead of just another (and perhaps optional) source of information? The more you reduce the need for external reinforcement, the more successful your channel is.
Cocreation platform. Recognize that consumers have a need to express their opinions, analysis, and judgments. Instead of fighting that risk, a great social channel leverages it to funnel feedback into the organization, thus helping with innovation and service.
Aligning Business and Technology Priorities
Even as core business priorities are oriented around better customer engagement over multiple channels influencing acquisition, retention, cross-sell/upsell, positive word of mouth, etc., related technology priorities often are to:
1. Reduce reliance on disparate tools and platforms.
As this channel has evolved, businesses have used a variety of point tools. Publishing to multiple channels, listening to monitor conversations, and quick analytics on social data are all tool sets that have gained acceptance. However, as the channel matures, the shortcomings of using these point solutions are obvious. A key technology priority is to integrate end-to-end use cases and align them with enterprise technology systems to increase the effectiveness of your social media efforts.
2. Reduce time to market for multichannel initiatives.
Even as social initiatives are quick to launch, their integration across channels may not be. Common examples are of a promotion on Facebook that is not available online, or a service update on Twitter that is not available to the contact center. The problem is accentuated when business boundaries need integration, such as linking packaged goods or banking promotions/coupons with the consumer’s retail experience.
3. Integrate data and expedite decision-making.
Analysis of social data is lucrative, but not as powerful as when that data is merged with existing customer information, transaction history, demographics, and changes in interaction pattern. Completing this story is where technology and data integration becomes extremely important. What data is needed, how to procure it, how to process it, and how to push it across channels are the questions to answer.
4. Homogenize business processes.
You may acquire a customer on Facebook, but if the buck stops there, there's no pat on the back for a business technology leader. Understanding that the customer came from a particular channel, deciphering if that channel is also the preferred channel of interaction, and then orienting future interactions with that channel are pertinent definition areas. Too often, we run initiatives to promote channel adoption, when we should instead be reinforcing and harnessing channel usage, and nurturing the transition when it is natural.
Social interaction and social analytics have a lot of untapped potential in really understanding, leveraging, and integrating the channel for driving business goals. Thinking about this channel from a model of business capabilities and required technology enablers will drive clarity and collaboration among business and channel stakeholders, ultimately resulting in quantifiable and easily attributable impacts on business drivers.
Manish Grover is the senior director of Mindtree, a global information technology solutions company.