Clever use of customer social data can inform brand strategy, trends, product development and future-proof an organisation. Here are the factors you need to consider…
In the report ‘Is Social Media Transforming Your Business?’ Oracle state: “It is clear that social media is changing consumer behaviour around the globe. What has not been as celar for most organisations is how to adapt to this new medium and take advantage of the opportunities it presents. The result has been a hodgepodge of Band-Aid, bolt-on solutions – and the increased overhead and unnatural business processes that typically accompany this kind of scattershot approach.”
Customer feedback in the social media sphere is constant, relentless and remarkably candid. It is in this realm that organisations can find a wealth of data that can be used to track trends to leverage better business performance, and change the way a company interacts with its customer base. However, the sheer volume of data is astonishing. Many organisations are drowning under the onslaught of social input and have not adapted accordingly.
So what are the systems that you need to put in place in order to make the most of this data? Kim Musgrave, social media team lead manager at McDonald’s explains, “The online landscape is now saturated with hundreds of tools and platforms. At McDonald’s we looked at social media volume and trends that impact our usage and partnered with Radian6 to help manage over 2.5 million conversations each month.”
In addition, the social media insights supervisor for McDonald’s generates a summary report each week that has insights on new and existing products, competitors and influencers. This report is then sent on to over 500 people across the company including marketing, PR, insights, supply chain, legal and more. What McDonald’s have done is take the conversations that are happening about their brand and they’ve used them to listen effectively so that they can drive their brand further and improve business performance.
Frank Eliason, SVP of social media for Citibank, explains why this is important, “People are focusing on the completely wrong metrics and not properly educating executives on the real story of social media. Most companies claim to be listening but very few have changed or implemented processes or products based on this listening. Huge ROI can be gained just by measuring changes that stem from listening.”
There is no point spending money on tools such as Radian6 if the information isn’t used to grow the business. Company-wide reporting that shares these insights with the relevant departments and ensures that the data is being channelled to the right areas of the business is vital. Social-minded organisations incorporate the wisdom gleaned from social media into existing workflows so as to encourage growth, change and internal conversations.
Musgrave agrees, “Cross-functional teams from marketing, menu and operations, and others, rely on consumer insights, along with sales data, to look for opportunities. When we launched Real Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, the traditional insights team noticed a trend in complaints of runny or watered down oatmeal from customers. We noticed a similar trend in social and, as a result, operational changes were implemented.”
There are two factors worth noting here: internal cross-communication and information sharing. As social media redefines the landscapes in which customers work with companies, so the companies need to adapt to this new form of communication. The days of isolated departments within a business are rapidly departing, as social media doesn’t talk in silos, it cuts across the lines and demands ownership. A social business will create internal solutions that create this ownership and use the information to improve the business.
McDonald’s are looking at creating a database that will track social volume trends on promotions and product launches and believe that adding the social data to this will increase the power of actionable insights to their product teams in marketing. This is one way in which social media data can be used to track trends and implement change, another is to structure the way in which you gain this insight to get information that is directly relevant to your organisation.
“Strong reporting is key for social media strategies,” says Michael Thornton from Ph Creative, “It’s also important to keep an eye on what’s trending, but don’t let your strategy be knocked off course by that which is trending naturally. Stay true to your brand and your customers will stay true to you.”
In their whitepaper, “Social Media Strategy Tests”, Converseon explain that, “By mining online conversations for answers to your unique business questions, with metrics and data organised according to your internal customer segmentation and your products, you can quickly determine unique insights that inform true competitive advantage.”
Take the social media data that is on offer, use it to ask the right questions, and reap the right rewards “One real advantage of social media is that it allows brands to shape themselves around consumer needs,” explains Thornton, “It allows an unprecedented level of speed in market research, with real-time analysis of how your brand is performing across numerous areas.”
Kim Musgrave agrees, “Social is 24/7 and very candid. Our social insights supervisor is skilled with quick turn around on reports and is an expert at data mining. Awareness of the impact of social insights is key and continued awareness within our organisation and how social data can compliment consumer feedback is a continued initiative.”
The social business, therefore, needs to listen to the conversations and use the information to inform internal strategies, solutions and business practises. The social ear can be fine-tuned using social media tracking tools, by asking the right questions, and mining the information effectively.
Finally, there must be internal processes that allow for this hard earned data to be disseminated properly so that the various departments can use it to their advantage, so that it ensures a return on investment, and so that products or services can be adapted to improve the relationship with the customer. And throughout it all, the business needs to engage with the consumer and integrate their social media strategies alongside the rest of their business to ensure that the brand message is consistent and clear.
The Oracle report concludes with this advice:
- Consistently listen, monitor, capture, and manage relevant conversations inside and outside your branded domains.
- Implement tools that integrate and extend the reach of the contact center and the knowledgebase to ensure that consistent, relevant information is captured and distributed across all interaction channels—rather than creating silos of duplicated, out-of-date content.
- Engage across all channels with consumers who are looking to solve problems, voice opinions, discuss ideas, and seek assistance.
- Integrate social and established communication channels into existing business processes to provide reliable knowledge resources that ensure seamless, efficient cross-channel delivery—rather than adding bolt-on, extraneous processes and workflows that create inefficiencies and compound costs.
- Combine efforts across the organization (marketing, support, and IT) to uniformly manage social demands and consumer experiences.
- Invest in platforms that centralize experience, expertise, and methodologies to ensure adaptive, innovative, and mission-critical delivery—rather than managing disconnected, spliced, or rigid systems of varied accessibility and availability.
In essence, you need to embrace a customer experience strategy that enables you to operationalize social technology and methodologies within your existing resources. You also need business processes that can scale organically with your business and enable you to not only adapt to consumer change but also actually predict and influence it—creating a unique and sustainable differentiator for your brand.