Data from the marketing firm Exact Target indicates that customers are becoming increasingly cautious of following brands on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. As brands battle for followers they are eager to embrace automation technology and ramp up engagement strategies to “out-post” the competition. But an IBM study entitled “From Social Media to Social CRM” reveals a disconnect between what brands think customers are looking for out of social media experiences and what customers are actually looking for. The IBM piece makes a compelling argument that brands need to adopt an overarching, evidence-based approach to social media engagement.
“From Social Media to Social CRM” pointed out the need for companies to shift their approach to customer relationship management. While traditional CRM strategies manage customer relationships from a company’s perspective, Social CRM is about finding that intersection of the venn diagram where company and client objectives line up.
In the words of CRM guru Paul Greenberg, “[Social CRM] is aimed at customer engagement, not customer management.”
Although 80% of companies that IBM surveyed use social media in some respect, this often entails siloed social projects that don’t correlate with a high-level Social CRM strategy. A comprehensive Social CRM strategy requires companies to establish KPIs and metrics in order to engage with customers at all stages of the buying cycle. Less than 30% of businesses have well-defined KPIs, social media policies and social media governance, while only 23% of businesses strongly agree that they have incorporated social media insights into their business strategies.
Businesses are also falling short of calculating the ROI for social engagements. Only 23% of businesses feel like they have a method firmly in place for calculating social media ROI. Calculating ROI for social campaigns can be elusive, as it requires establishing a set of metrics to measure the reach, engagement, conversions and visitor quality of fans.
Negative Brand Exposure
Whether you are marketing to consumers or other businesses, it is important to be aware that customer relationship management no longer stops with each customer. Each customer is a hub in a wider social network. By positively engaging with one customer you are, in a sense, engaging with his network.
Many companies believe that the greatest risk in social media is failing to join the conversation. This can lead brands to engage customers aggressively, ignoring the risk of negative brand exposure.
Marketing firm Exact Target cites in their report “The Social Break-up” that 55% of consumers reported “liking” a brand before later deciding that they no longer wanted to hear messaging from that brand. In addition, 71% of consumers say that they are becoming more selective about the brands that they follow. The report cites that consumers top reasons for “breaking-up” with brands include repetitive content and over-posting.
Human Considerations in Social Media Marketing
Third-party social media APIs like Hootsuite, Sendible and Social RSS make it easy for brands to automatically schedule and generate posts on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. These technological solutions can appear to be powerful weapons in the battle of the brands.
Yet it was recently revealed in an EdgeRank study reveals that using a 3rd party API to post status updates on Facebook can decrease your likelihood engagement per fan by up to 88%! That means that Facebook actually punishes posts that originated from 3rd party sources. Facebook rewards human interaction and, more poignantly, Facebook interaction.
Facebook algorithms aside, the EdgeRank study brings to mind the question: should social media be automated at all?
As evidence-based marketers, we are constantly striving to determine which tasks are best performed by humans and which tasks are better left for computers. When it comes to accruing Twitter followers, for example, we use tools like TweetBig and Tweepi to not only find followers, but find followers that are relevant to a particular industry.
However, when it comes to actually posting status updates, we write them ourselves and post them in real time — data from Ignite Social Media reveals that posts published immediately generate 74% more conversions than scheduled posts.
Give Your Customers What They Want
If customers are becoming more cautious about following brands in social media, perhaps it’s time for brands to start listening to what customers are looking for out of branded social media engagements. The IBM report states that the top two reasons customers engage with brands in social media sites is to receive discounts and make purchases. However, the same study shows that businesses believe that the top reasons customers engage with them is to learn about new products and receive general information. This reveals that customers are actually seeking branded social media engagement when they are further down the conversion funnel than businesses tend to believe.
If there’s a take-away here, it’s that brands need to develop new ways to capture consumer interest at different stages of the buying cycle. It appears that social media engagement strategies should be more incentive-based. Prior to purchase, brands should offer customers incentives to convert. Following conversion, brands should focus on turning customers into brand ambassadors, leveraging their social networks—every customer should be seen as a potential member of your brand’s sales team.
Win the Battle of the Brands
Social media is a battleground. As in any war, brands are quite eager to embrace the technological innovations that can give them an advantage over their rivals. While brands furiously struggle to control a conversation, they often lose site of the fact that their social engagement strategies do more harm than good. Through scorched-earth marketing, brands can conscript an army of followers. But without properly engaging those followers, they’re likely to go AWOL.