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Posts Tagged ‘Social media’

Selling to the social customer – a sure way to fail

August 16th, 2012

I’ve been involved in a number of discussions recently about the value of a social approach to communications vs. a more traditional approach.

These discussions have focused on developing PR campaigns, digital campaigns and securing leads, but the overriding theme has been very similar.

Regular readers of this blog will know I have discussed/ranted about social and traditional approaches many times over the last 6 years, so this is nothing new, but every time the discussion comes up it makes me re-evaluate where we are coming from, which i believe is a positive thing.

The ongoing issue goes something like this: The majority of organisations: brands, agencies, charities, public sector, etc, have woken up to the opportunities of social media in recent years, but the tendency is to approach social with a traditional strategy. This for me is the route-cause for most of the discussions we have around ‘fixing failing campaigns’.

Unfortunately, a traditional approach to social rarely works, and when a traditional approach is developed for social customers, the results can be disappointing at best, and the fallout can be very messy and public at worst.

Fundamentally, communicating in a social environment is driven by listening to and understanding the target community, and then engaging with relevant content and conversation.

Traditional approaches tend to miss this vital element and jump straight into the conversation using broadcast messages to engage on what the organisation thinks the community needs to know, with little or no understanding of what has gone previously, or without understanding the debate.

This is not a new discovery, but it is a reflection of the mindset change necessary for those that wish to make the jump to communications online, where the target audience is made up of, or influenced by, ‘social customers’.

So let’s look at the changing customer base that we are dealing with. I have used this definition of the social customer before, but i think it’s worth re-visiting:

The social customer is dynamic, hyper-connected and can shape business and brand reputation by defining an organisation’s value, relevance and reputation. As a result, social customers have compelled organisations of all types to be more customer-centric and have transformed the way in which organisations need to communicate with and, most importantly, listen to their customers.

Put simply, the social customer now owns the relationship, and every organisation needs need to earn his/her trust.

The social customer is also a driving force in the development of the online economy, which is rapidly growing and currently contributes 8.3 per cent to the UK economy. This is more than the healthcare, construction or education sectors.

UK consumers also buy far more from online retail sources than any other major economy and this is expected to continue expanding by 11% per year for the next four years, reaching a total value of £221bn by 2016. Compare this to growth rates of 5.4% in the U.S. and 6.9% in China.

So, if we take this learning on the traditional vs. social approach and appreciate the ultimate audience, which revolves around the social customer, I believe the debate on how we develop campaigns can begin.

Let’s start with the obvious; hard sell in a social environment doesn’t work. We know that. But that doesn’t mean we’re not asked to take this approach in our campaigns, and specifically asked why it is necessary to build a campaign around listening and content / conversation development. Why don’t we just focus on the sell?

The beauty of social media is that it is ‘social’. It rewards a social attitude where brands listen and engage by being useful and relevant, and punishes a traditional broadcast or sales-based approach – i.e. we are the best so buy here.

The reality is that the web is a social tool, and it reflects the characteristics of human behaviour. We don’t tend to buy a service until we trust the provider and have been convinced that it is the right choice by those in our social circle and those that have influence on the subject.

Google ranks websites on relevancy, meaning relevancy of content and relevancy through links, so if we want to be part of that discussion we need to give the community, the brands and Google what they want: knowledge, community, and trust, which makes us relevant and leads to engagement.

If you are under the assumption that people use social media to engage with brands, you will fail, because this is simply not the case for the vast majority. If a brand is interesting or relevant to a specific conversation so be it, but this will not happen through traditional sales-based approaches.

Therefore, if you try selling in a social environment you’ll always be on the outside looking in, wondering why your approach isn’t working, while being blissfully unaware of the social conversations happening all around you.

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Does size matter in social?

August 2nd, 2012

This post was originally published on Monty’s Outlook.

As a social species, we should expect our habits and actions on social networks to reflect our natural priorities as humans… as a species we crave companionship and like to feel part of a community.

Our instinct is to learn from each other and share our experiences with like-minded individuals. That habit has served us well, but at some point in our conversations and relationships the number of contacts we have has been given a higher value than the quality of the connection we have with those individuals, groups and brands.

Likes, followers and friends remain the measurement of choice for many of us, even those that know better secretly keep an eye on the amount of people they are interacting with. So although the quality vs. quantity conversation has been going on for many years, something isn’t clicking.

The majority understand the basic concept, it’s better to have 10 meaningful relationships where information is exchanged than 100 empty links. Fine, but try telling a brand that when its closest competitor has two million more likes on Facebook. The digital guys probably get it, the marketing guys may get it, but tell that to the board and they will answer that ‘we need three million more, make it happen‘.

There are many factors that contribute to this misconception. The habit of using traditional media measurements on social media, the ROI debate, our natural propensity to believe more = better, the fact that social networks want you to have more friends and more likes because it means you are using the product more and they can sell more advertising.

This is not a new issue, and although slight movement has taken place, real change will not happen until the facts are revealed to everybody. The simple truth is if a brand has seven million likes on Facebook, it does not have seven million opportunities to sell. It’s highly unlikely that the percentage of people actually engaged with that brand even makes it into double figures, or single figures for that matter.

The practise of buying likes/followers/friends is widespread and the impact of this is only now beginning to be understood, after the rush for numbers is over and the engagement begins.

There are different levels of buying likes. For example if you advertise on Facebook using certain terms, you will get more likes even if they are not that useful. Rory Cellan-Jones did an experiment on Facebook in July that had some interesting results.

Fundamentally if your strategy is to build your number of likes, you will attract the wrong people as this is not the behaviour you want in return. If you want people to engage with, and ultimately sell to, more likes will not help.

Here are a few stats that I picked up from Jeremy Waite TBG Digital at the recent Facebook Marketing event….

- 66% of people follow less than five brands. If you’re an accountant, that’s the battle you need to fight
- 45% of people who follow a brand on Facebook never go back
- 98% of people who Like a brand only visit the page once

Jeremy also mentioned that only around 16% of people will see any of your posts on a Facebook page. We’re acquiring a lot of fans that we aren’t reaching. This means mass engagement probably isn’t even a reality, and that is one of the major issues, understanding the difference between an empty like and a real connection.

So perhaps we need to recognise this fact and move the assumption from ‘we have x million fans – well done us’ to ‘we have x million fans of which only x are engaged’. It seems obvious and many brands do this, but many more do not.

The assertion that social and digital is completely measureable, although true, has pushed us towards a false idol. Of course numbers are important, but if we forget that we are dealing with social beings, with conversations, with listening and understanding, then we are not being very social at all.

Just because we can measure something, does not mean we should. Just because we have the data does not mean it is useful. We need to take a step back from the data – move away from the numbers, people!

As a brand, you may only have a relatively small number of fans/likes, but if the percentage of engaged users is higher because you have built this number based on real engagement, you are ultimately more successful than a brand with a huge number of likes and no engagement.

The bottom line is, if you are under the assumption that people use social media to engage with brands, you had better wake up, and realise this is not the case for the vast majority. If a brand is interesting or relevant to a specific conversation or community so be it, but this will not happen through competitions and requests to ‘Like us’ alone.

Perhaps we should ask Facebook to add an engaged count next to the like count – that would be a useful number for everyone to understand.

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Facebook Marketing 2012 review #fbkm12

July 19th, 2012

On Wednesday we attended the Facebook Marketing 2012 event (#fbkm12) at the ICO Conference Centre in London organised by Our Social Times and Chinwag.

As you can see by the agenda the line up was impressive, kicking off with Andy Pang from Facebook, and including brands such as Manchester City FC, Nokia, BBC, Guardian, Yorkshire Tea, Kraft (Cadburys), agencies such as TBG Digital, Edelman, We are Social, Isobar Social and SiteVisibility, and technologies such as Agorapulse and Tempero, as well as many more in the crowd.

You can see the presentations here.

The event, which will also be running in New York and Singapore, was jam-packed with 18 sessions developed to uncover the latest strategies, tools and insights for running Facebook campaigns, including case studies on brands such as Dove, Heinz, and Kellogg’s.

The event also coincided with the launch of two pieces of research, which were quoted during the event:

1. comScore and Facebook: European Insights About Earned and Paid Media Reach and Effectiveness

2. Facebook Global Ad Report 2012. Sponsored Story ads are now 53% more engaging than standard FB ads by TBG Digital

This was backed up by a range of learning/stats and advice from the sessions, examples of which include:

- Facebook only holds 6 months worth of data
- 66% of people follow less than 5 brands
- People don’t share facts, they share emotions. Brands that don’t measure will fail
- Most antisocial thing brands could do on Facebook is turn off comments
- videos, photos & links are “weightier” than other updates, therefore more likely to appear in newsfeeds; likes & comments add weight
- Likes are meaningless
- Japan has the quickest growing Facebook penetration percentage in the world
- A high CTR (click through rate) doesn’t equal a good ROI (Return on investment)

Each of the sessions was live blogged by Adam Tinworth (@adders) via the Liberate Media blog. If you would like to read more about any of the presentations, feel free to choose from the list below:

Andy Pang, Facebook: Facebook State of the nation

Richard Ayers, Manchester City FC & British Film institute: Facebook Strategy: How Facebook fits into a social & Digital strategy

Tom Smith and Brett Petersen, GlobalWebIndex: Facebook – Beyond the Hype

DiscussionFacebook and traffic, localisation and devices

Kelvin Newman, SiteVisibility: an introduction to Edgerank

Dom Dwight, Yorkshire Tea: Little Urn, human voice and Facebook Tea

Jeremy Waite, TBG Digital: why brands are doing Facebook advertising wrong

Discussion: the worth of Likes and Ads – Facebook Marketing 2012

Sarah Lindley, Cadbury: drives Dairy Milk engagement with a giant, chocolate thumb

Nils Mork-Ulnes & Judith Lewis, Beyond Interactive: The Science of sharing

Russell Goldsmith, Markettiers4DC: driving engagement with interactive video

Voices, real people and Black Swans: 3 case studies: Dove, Kellogg’s, XBox

Martin Belam, Emblem: leveraging the Facebook platform – Guardian Reader

Tom Ollerton, We are Social: Selling FMCG on Facebook with Heinz

Paul Marsden, Social Commerce Today: Ringing the Tills: An introduction to Fcommerce

Thomas Messett, Nokia: Nokia and Fcommerce

According to Appozite Tweet reach the crowd stretched well beyond those at the event and expanded onto the social web, as you would expect. By the end of the event 142,756 people had been reached.

Many of the sessions were also reported on by titles such as Marketing Week and eConsultancy, examples of the stories can be seen below:

Econsultancy:

Man City’s social strategy is about engagement, not traffic

Cadbury’s shift to social means no more drumming gorillas

F-commerce doesn’t work, according to Nokia and Heinz

Marketing Week:

Cadbury adopts ‘social first’ strategy

BFI to use digital to tap into film fans

The conversation didn’t finish at the end of the event either, as debate continued both online and in the pub.

Facebook Marketing 2012 was a huge success and Chinwag and Our Social Times should be congratulated for bringing together such an impressive line up and pulling it off.

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Gartner report on corporate social media monitoring raises moral questions

May 31st, 2012

According to a report issued by Gartner this week, corporations are starting to embrace technologies used to monitor employee Internet use, with 60% expected to watch workers’ social media use for security breaches by 2015.

Currently, less than 10% of companies monitor their employees’ use of Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and other social media sites for security breaches, although of course many companies already monitor social media for brand management and marketing purposes.

So why is the monitoring of employee social activity necessary? The report suggests an example of ‘employees posting unauthorised videos of company activities‘ and with some people’s urge to share every aspect of their lives without consideration of the longer term, or knock-on, effect, I can understand how this could be a concern to employers, at least in theory. However, organisations need to tread very carefully.

According to the report’s author Andrew Walls, research vice president at Gartner, “There are other times when accessing the information can generate serious liabilities, such as a manager reviewing an employee’s Facebook profile to determine the employee’s religion or sexual orientation in violation of equal employment opportunity and privacy regulations.”

He went onto confirm: “Enterprise surveillance of employee activities on popular social media sites has led to disciplinary actions against employees that are often supported by the law but violate cultural expectations for free speech and personal privacy in most Western countries.

This issue is going to be a difficult one for employers to navigate as they try to balance what is legally acceptable, with what is morally acceptable. Furthermore, accessing social-based information in some circumstances can generate serious liabilities, such as a manager reviewing an employee’s Facebook profile to determine their religion or sexual orientation, in violation of equal employment opportunity and privacy regulations.

The practise of asking for Facebook passwords at interview, as reported earlier this year, surely goes too far. I believe that social media, at least to a degree, is self policing as the culprit of any security breach can be tracked and will likely be highlighted as the source by any mentions or simple analytics checks. Therefore, are these pre-emptive measures relevant? Should we be looking at social media any differently to traditional media in this regard? Or is that a case of trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted?

Obviously in some industries security is a huge concern and sharing of valuable/private data would have a very real and negative effect, but in general is this a panic reaction to what ‘could’ happen, rather than a result of issues that actually have occurred? Should we be talking about education and guidelines rather than monitoring and punishment?

Gartner believes monitoring can enhance threat detection and response: security organisations are beginning to see value in the capture and analysis of social media content, not just for internal security surveillance, but also to enable detection of shifting threats that may impinge on the organisation. This might be physical threats to facilities and personnel revealed through postings concerning civil unrest or it may be threats of logical attacks by so-called hacktivists. Early detection of shifting risks, it says, enables the organisation to vary its security posture to match and minimise negative impacts.

Gartner’s advice on monitoring social media is: Employee accounts should be non-intrusively monitored to discover data breaches as soon as possible, but also to prevent corporate equipment or offices from being abused or misused.

But it goes onto warn: While automated, covert monitoring of computer use by staff suspected of serious policy violations can produce hard evidence of inappropriate or illegal behaviours, and guide management response, it might also violate privacy laws.

It seems the lines between morality and legality will have to be drawn up by individual organisations, and it will be interesting to see the reaction of employees, and potential legal issues that will follow.

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Can social media work with IT security?

April 27th, 2012

For the last three days I have been at the InfoSec and Internet World shows. Fear not this won’t be a rambling post about the joys of trade shows or living in the airless atmospheres contained within Earls Court.

This post touches on the world of Information Security and its parallels with trade show partner Internet World. Okay, I admit, on the face of it this is not the world’s most exciting topic, nor is it likely to bring much respect in the world of comms, as my past experience of being in the ‘Tech’ team of various PR agencies has proved. Back then, if you understood technology, you were part of the geeks in the corner that can fix the printer or set up an email account on your phone, but that’s about it.

Well, as we know, the tide has turned and technology in its many forms and guises is intersecting every part of our lives. This has been propelled in the most part by social media (more on that later) and mobile devices – referred to throughout the IT Security world as BYOD (Bring your own device) and anyone at InfoSec is no doubt full of stats from the many BYOD surveys available throughout the show.

At the risk of making sweeping generalisations, which i admit is a fear as there are of course examples of social acceptance and use among security vendors, but my experience over the last few days has shown that too many IT Security pros still look at social media as a risk, and not an opportunity.

On the face of it I understand why. Social media opens many points of risk to the very organisations that security companies are trying to secure. The traditional way of securing this risk is to block and control. I.e. block access to the sites in question and/or control those sites that are deemed worthy of access in the work place.

However, this doesn’t account for human nature and that dramatically over used acronym BYOD. In short, you can tell people that they can’t do something, but if it’s easier to choose the forbidden route, you can guarantee what the outcome will be.

Having spoken to a wide range of people at both shows over the three days, my general perception was those at Internet World weren’t very concerned by security issues, and those at InfoSec were not only concerned about the risks posed by social media and other digital channels, but in some cases were suggesting blocking and ways to circumvent social communications across the board.

Let me be clear that I completely appreciate the ever-growing problem posed by cyber-criminals and the multitude of very real and escalating risks. We not only lose money to these risks on a daily basis, but also risk our IP and physical security , which is perhaps the often overlooked issue that faces our governments and industry on a daily basis. Having seen just a small portion of the realities of these threats I completely understand the reaction of IT Security to social media. However, that doesn’t make it right or workable.

Let’s start out with that age-old argument of banning social media in the work place. In my opinion this is not a relevant response to the equally ridiculous notion that people will spend all day on Facebook instead of working, and it’s not a viable response to prevent people from sharing data on social networks. If it’s possible, it will happen.

Therefore, if you do ban social media, you will force people onto their own devices which will remove even more of that control that many are craving in the first place. So what’s the response? Well it starts with a culture change, which drives a technology change.

First, the culture. Social media cannot be forgotten, ignored or banned, so deal with it as part of the overall strategy, not something to be treated separately. Secondly, relying on people to use specific software or machines to access corporate information is also unrealistic, so security needs to be built into all devices, utilising security by design. Thirdly, if we can’t ban or remove social, we need to educate people about its correct use.

Obviously sharing corporate information on Facebook is not a good idea, just like writing your password on a post-it and sticking it to your monitor is not a good idea. Facebook is not the issue, the lack of understanding about the risks is the issue.

I have no doubt that social media needs to be banned in highly secure locations, but that doesn’t mean it can be banned across the board. People always find a way.

Without wishing to get preachy, the revolution in communications devices and channels is only going to continue gaining momentum, it’s certainly not going to go away and it’s unlikely to slow down. Therefore, ignoring or banning is not the answer for the majority that do not work in highly secure environments.

In my opinion, staging the InfoSec and Internet World shows on the same three days, and within five minutes walk of each other, was a missed opportunity to share information between these two sectors, as each could learn a lot from the other.

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Social CRM: Stop thinking about ownership and start thinking about culture change

April 13th, 2012

This post was originally published as a guest post on Monty’s Outlook

Who owns Social CRM? This debate continues to divide opinion, but I believe it is the wrong question. Ownership is not the issue, and only echoes the ‘who owns social media’ tedium, which I have ranted about for longer than I care to remember.

The social media ownership debate has been perpetuated by a range of marketing and communications agencies with the objective of grabbing budget from each other and squabbling over whose social services are ‘better’.

This misses the point. Ownership of what is fundamentally a conversation is irrelevant, and as parts of the same marketing/comms machine it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Social is not and was never a marketing focus alone, it’s so much bigger than that. As David Meerman Scott said: “Nobody cares about your products, people care about their problems. Customers do not want a relationship with your business, they want the benefits a relationship can offer to them”.

So is the ownership debate around Social CRM the same? Well, in many ways it is. The customer owning Social CRM is a crucial point, we are talking about putting the customer at the centre of the business. However that doesn’t give a company the structure needed to build a Social CRM mechanism, so it’s back to the ‘debate’: What tends to follow is that no one or everyone owns it, and ‘ownership’ is the wrong term.

As Mitch Lieberman says: “Social CRM is about bringing ‘me’ (the social customer) into the ecosystem… It is not about the technology, it is about the people, process and cultural shifts necessary to support and grow a business.”

Let’s take this back to basics. Who or what is the social customer and why is change needed? Put simply, the social customer is dynamic, hyper-connected and can define an organisation’s value, relevance and reputation. It is not about the company’s reputation, it is about the reputation of its customers, they are the ones who will form opinion of that company.

As a result, social customers force organisations of all types to be more customer-centric and have transformed the way in which organisations need to communicate with and, most importantly, listen to their customers.

The key here is taking CRM beyond a marketing or customer services specialism, and building a philosophy that translates across the organisation. Customers can intersect and engage with an organisation at many different points and do not follow traditional channels of communication.

Therefore, A Social CRM strategy must be implemented across the business to succeed. As with any area of social media, or any conversation for that matter, the best place to start is by listening. In terms of CRM, this is essential. Organisations should only engage and add value when they have listened to and understood the problems, challenges and issues that customers are experiencing.

So where does this leave the ownership debate? As I said earlier, thinking of Social CRM as something that can be owned is a dangerous path as it means the organisation is trying to remove the customer from its central business focus, and neatly packaging it off to a single department.

From the conversational point of view the customer owns Social CRM, but from an organisational point of view Social CRM is the result of a cultural shift that needs to take place in an organisation to focus the business around its most important element, its customers.

So, if we really need someone to own Social CRM, it should be owned at management level, as these are the correct individuals to guide and develop the business into cultural change. The Social CRM approach, related strategies, tactics and technologies stem from there.

If you try to implement Social CRM tactics and technologies without this cultural change you will fail.

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Girls Around Me – a wake-up call

April 5th, 2012

It’s been a week of controversy around cyber-snooping.  First the Government announced draft plans to extend its online surveillance powers, and then Russian app developer i-Free was forced to withdraw its Girls Around Me app following a media outcry.

The app, which was downloaded 70,000 times before being voluntarily withdrawn, is a tool which uses Facebook and Foursquare information to track women nearby.  With public profiles and check-in information combined, it allows the user to see women’s names, photos, geographical location and much more besides, all without their consent.

The thumbnail images on the site are predictably of women scantily dressed and the app states: “In the mood for love, or just a one night stand? Girls Around Me puts you in control!” So far, so offensive.

There has been a landslide of comment about the app, mostly looking at issues around privacy, data, and how much information we should share online.  There has also been a lot of comment about why is this a big deal?  What would a person possessing that information actually do? Would they run to the nearest bar and chat-up a girl using their personal details as a start to the conversation? In reality probably not, but we can’t be sure.

As Sarah Jacobsson Purewal at PCWorld says “it’s hard to see this app as a real threat to privacy or women.”  Rather, she says, it’s “a wake-up call to those who publicly overshare.”

This seems to be true, but there are deeper issues here than just those around data, privacy and sharing too much information about yourself.  Gender politics and old fashioned sexism are also central to this debate.

This article by Nathan Jurgenson brilliantly sums-up the gender and cultural contexts that have been largely ignored.  App developers would do well to read this and think twice before their next data mash-up.

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A guide to defining and developing Social CRM

April 4th, 2012

We have developed a guide to defining and developing Social CRM which is summarised below. If you would like a copy of the full guide, please send an email to hello@liberatemedia.com titled: ‘request for SCRM guide‘ and we’ll pass it on.

You may also be interested in the Social Customer session summaries that can be found on our blog. These posts detail the key points from each of the sessions at the Social Customer event, which took place on March 29th in London.

Summary
In our experience, the defining characteristic of Social CRM (Social Customer Relationship Management) is the range of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the core elements involved. This guide to Social CRM has been developed with this in mind to help every organisation better understand and engage with the social customer.

We have offered a practical guide to the approach and services required, and a helpful Social CRM audit at the end of the document to help you develop your organisation’s Social CRM capability.

What is a Social Customer?
The social customer is dynamic, hyper-connected and can shape business and brand reputation by defining an organisation’s value, relevance and reputation. As a result, social customers have compelled organisations of all types to be more customer-centric and have transformed the way in which organisations need to communicate with and, most importantly, listen to their customers.

Put simply, the social customer now owns the relationship, and every organisation needs need to earn his/her trust.

The social customer is also a driving force in the development of the online economy, which is rapidly growing and currently contributes 8.3 per cent to the UK economy. This is more than the healthcare, construction or education sectors.

UK consumers also buy far more from online retail sources than any other major economy and this is expected to continue expanding by 11% per year for the next four years, reaching a total value of £221bn by 2016. Compare this to growth rates of 5.4% in the U.S. and 6.9% in China.

What is Social CRM?
A compelling definition of the Social CRM challenge was given by Esteban Kolsky, Founder at ThinkJar at Social CRM 2011 in London: “Companies tend to start using social media to talk at their customers, not to listen to them.”

He then defined CRM as a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a system and a technology, designed to improve human interactions in a business environment.

This is a good reflection of how many organisations start out on the road to Social CRM, jumping straight into a tactical approach and talking ‘at’ customers but not listening ‘to’ customers. In fact the focus should be on improving real interactions with customers.

In practical terms this means the organisation will need to implement a system and related technologies, built around an overarching ‘business’ strategy. This strategy really needs to be developed with the whole organisation in mind, as well as being understood and executed by the entire organisation, otherwise the social customer will remain elusive.

Additional definition quotes:
Mitch Lieberman: “Social CRM is about bringing “me” (the social customer) into the ecosystem… It is not about the technology, it is about the people, process and cultural shifts necessary to support and grow a business.”

Paul Greenberg: “Social CRM is the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”

Why does Social CRM matter?
The key here is taking CRM beyond a marketing or customer services specialism, and building a philosophy that translates across the organisation. If Social CRM is purely a function of customer services we are missing the point. In today’s socially connected world, customers can intersect and engage with an organisation at many different points, and do not follow traditional channels of communication. Therefore, A Social CRM strategy must be implemented across the business to succeed.

This has been evidenced on many occasions by customers using their networks to discuss organisations, form opinions and influence others through their experiences. This is the heart of social conversation and the essence of a social business. If an organisation’s Social CRM strategy cannot positively impact this process then it is failing, and to succeed it must be implemented across the board. For example, your sales staff may be excellent relationship managers, but if your service staff are rude and unresponsive, the overall impact will be negative.

Furthermore, we now learn from and engage with our customers more than ever before, but we can also learn from the data that social and online activities offer to us. It is important to manage this data and put it to use, as not all of the data will be relevant. In fact much of it will just be noise, but Social CRM offers us the opportunity to learn about customers, process these learnings and engaging accordingly.

How do you develop your Social CRM strategy?
If we consider that Social CRM is a method of blending social activities with the proven fundamentals of CRM, and we understand that Social CRM is part of the evolution towards the development of a more effective social business, then we are half way there.

However, we also need to focus on customer need. This need is not motivated by being a fan or friend of the organisation, but by deriving value from the customer’s engagement with the organisation.

As David Meerman Scott says: ‘Nobody cares about your products, people care about their problems. Customers do not want a relationship with your business, they want the benefits a relationship can offer to them’‘.

With that in mind, we need to translate our strategy into deliverables, and according to Esteban Kolsky, there are four key functions of Social CRM:

1. Community management (listening and engaging usefully)

2. Social analytics engine (gathering and processing data)

3. Actionable layer unit (identifying and actioning learnings)

4. System-of-record integration layer (integrating learning into the business)

Warning
Social CRM means engaging person to person. We know that using machines to “talk” with humans in the CRM context does not work. Therefore, remember it’s not about the technology, it’s about the person using it and the conversation. If we lose sight of the fundamentals and hide behind automated monitoring and response it will be the equivalent of a business leaving an answer machine to deal with customers, it won’t learn or react, it will just repeat.

Developing Social CRM
In this section, we detail the Social CRM deliverables and explain the services and focuses that organisations should be considering. There are four essential action elements and we have offered key service areas under each:

1. Listen – to customers and the wider community to understand issues and identify pain points

2. Capture – actionable and relevant data

3. Learn – develop a Social CRM philosophy across the organisation

4. Engage – using knowledge built through phases 1-3, engage in a relevant and useful manner

Let’s look at each area in more detail:

1. Listen
As with any area of social media, or any conversation for that matter, the best place to start is by listening. In terms of customer relationship management, this is essential. Organisations should only engage and add value when they have listened to and understood the problems, challenges and issues that customers are experiencing.

Listen service focuses

Digital / social infrastructure – A Social CRM campaign cannot be effective without a socially-enabled website, relevant social profiles and the ability to engage.

Before you go any further, you need to build your organisation’s Social CRM tools:

• Audit your website – are you open to customer comment/engagement/response?
• Audit your SEO – are your ‘digital touch points’ visible online?
• Audit/build social channels – are you open and available for customer engagement and listening beyond your website?

Social Media monitoring - Social CRM is often confused with Social Media Monitoring. Let’s be clear, although Social Media Monitoring is a crucial element of your Social CRM armoury, and will form a central part of the campaign, it is not enough to use monitoring alone. You must identify the relevant mentions, use the data and build that into your organisational approach. The data is only relevant if it is acted upon.

Team - Does your Social CRM response team consist of one marketing / customer services junior? This is not acceptable. Consider your customers and consider the amount of conversation about your organisation. Do you have the team to support this volume of data and conversation?

Training – Remember Social CRM is not a marketing or customer services tactic alone, your organisation needs to understand the key elements of Social CRM and act upon them. This means training and understanding needs to be implemented across the organisation.

2. Capture
Once you have the platform, processes and people in place to listen, you need to feed this infrastructure with actionable and relevant data. This is the fuel that drives the Social CRM engine and the quality of the fuel will relate directly to the effectiveness of the Social CRM process.

The first stage is to capture the data and process it into the relevant focuses for your organisation.
You will quickly realise that much of the data is irrelevant. It is crucial you do not waste time by feeding this information into the business – it will induce “analysis paralysis” as your people query and argue about irrelevant information.

Therefore, in this layer the focus is identifying and actioning the useful data that will tell the organisation something about its customers, identify issues to be remedied or help to build interactions by way of market research or insights.

Capture service focuses:

Data Capture – Social Media monitoring plays a key role here but we need to go deeper. Website analytics and data captured from customer communities will be vital, along with metrics from LinkedIn groups, sector networking tools and industry bodies.

Data Analysis – Data analysis is crucial. Do not overlook this phase as you could either strangle the process with too much data, or starve it of any useful information by only feeding it with the basics. Use experience here, make the most of your data and it will drive you to real success. If you don’t have the in-house skills, utilise experienced consultants or agencies. The value you derive from the data can be extremely powerful for the business as a whole.

3. Learn
This third layer is the key to Social CRM success, taking relationship management beyond a marketing or customer-services specialism and building a philosophy that is embedded throughout the organisation. In our experience, this is a challenging area of focus for those responsible for driving the Social CRM process.
However, by highlighting the importance of Social CRM to the management team at the outset, and explaining why organisation-wide action will be needed, this potential obstacle should be removed and a route cleared towards the goal of better customer understanding and improved service.

Learn service focuses:

Internal communication of findings – clarification and information curation is essential. There must be a process through which each piece of customer contact is automatically routed to the right person, classifying it by type (question, complaint or compliment), content (what it actually said), sentiment, action needed and influence.

This fluid process will reinforce the transformation of your business into a more open and responsive enterprise that engages successfully with online customers.

Workflow tools – these tools will ensure that information created by online customers is accessible to everyone in the organisation and precisely tuned to their specific needs. This creates a context for each social CRM interaction and will enable the social customer to engage with you in a way that is most relevant.

Business-wide social strategy – a social business strategy is the ultimate goal. Without change on an organisation-wide scale, the Social Customer will continue to be a lost opportunity and a fear factor, rather than a real opportunity to build engagement and ultimately drive value.

4. Engage
Social CRM isn’t just about engaging consistently, within a reasonable timeframe and adhering to corporate guidelines. The engagement needs to be relevant and useful, and not always in the form of a simple text-based response. Content can be used to engage without a complaint and to convey a key part of your offering. So don’t just think of engagement as a response. Think of it as an opportunity to build a conversation.

Let’s also be clear that you should not hold back from engaging until you have completed the three previous phases. Of course you need to engage before you have successfully implemented your social business strategy, otherwise it could take some time before you actually respond to your customers. However, the point remains we should not look at engagement as the quick fix or the first action point. It is important to respond to customer issues, but as we have said previously, engagement is so much more than just responding.

Engage Service focuses:

Social media engagement guidelines – These shouldn’t be an onerous book of dictations. The social media guidelines are important to communicate key aspects of the business dos and don’ts but they are not a script. The key here is ‘guideline’. We are not trying to stop our brand from engaging with humans as humans, and do not be tempted to speak in rigid legalese.

Content development – Online content is extremely powerful, from expressive video to simple slideshares and these “social assets” will make your brand more accessible, better understood, more useful. Think of content as your social currency. Build it up but don’t rely on the irrelevant and the slapdash. Quality beats quantity every time.

Not all content is the same and poor content will encourage a negative response so get the right advice from those who have done it before. Use the information from the listening phase, where you will learn exactly what it is that your online customers want, to develop the right content. You can find a recent case study example of a content community here.

Social tool management – Using social tools to monitor, extract useful information and identify points of engagement and conversation with the social customer on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social spaces is a very simple part of the process, but very easy to get wrong. Tone, frequency and subtle understanding of the organisation, underpinned by effective guidelines, will make all the difference.
Invest in experience and training and heed the many case study examples of success and failure. Allocate resource relevant to your social/digital footprint and customer base. Look outside of the business if the skills are not in-house, do not give this job to the intern, because if/when something goes wrong, blaming an intern is not a plausible excuse.

Conclusion
If you’ve reviewed this paper and ticked off the elements you want to take with you for your business or reconfirmed focuses that you have already got in place, I hope the information was useful and best of luck.
However, if you have written off Social CRM because your customers don’t act ‘that way’ – think again. Your customer is no different, you are now dealing with the social customer who doesn’t play by traditional rules and does not accept that your organisation is in charge. The social customer owns the relationship, and you need to earn his/her trust.

Social CRM audit

1. Listen

  • Website – are you open to customer listening/engagement?
  • SEO – can your digital touch points be found online?
  • Social channels – are you available for customer engagement and listening outside of your direct website?
  • Social Media monitoring – data is only relevant if it is acted upon.
  • Team - Consider your customers and the amount of conversation about your brand. Do you have the team to support this volume of data and conversation?
  • Training – Your business needs to understand the key elements of Social CRM and act upon them.

2. Capture

  • Data Capture – Website analytics and data captured from every customer, and relevant community will be vital.
  • Data Analysis – Understanding and knowing how to use this data is essential, otherwise you could either strangle the process with too much data, or starve it of any useful information by only feeding it with the basics.

3. Learn

  • Internal communication of findings - each message should be automatically routed to the right person, classifying it by type, content, sentiment, action needed and influence.
  • Workflow tools – these tools will ensure that all social information created is accessible to everyone in the organisation in the same way.
  • Business-wide social strategy – A social business strategy is the ultimate goal.

4. Engage

  • Social media guidelines – These shouldn’t be an onerous book of dictations. The key here is ‘guideline’. Five clear points is enough.
  • Content development – Think of content as your social currency and remember that quality wins over quantity every time.

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Social Customer Service infographic

March 27th, 2012

Ahead of the Social Customer event, which is taking place this Thursday, March 29th in London. Our Social Times has produced the following Social Customer Service infographic.

Luke Brynley-Jones, director at Our Social Times commented: “In recent months Customer Service has hit the social media spotlight in a flurry of reports and surveys. Fuelled by the increasing focus on engagement marketing, companies are realising that a department once consigned to contact centres in remote corners of the globe might just be one of their most important assets.

“At the same time, consumers are also looking for support via their chosen social media channels. 44% of adults now use the web to share grievances about products and 15% of 15-24 year olds prefer to interact with customer services exclusively via social media.

“In spite of this, 60% of companies don’t respond to customers via social media, even when asked a direct question. The fact that, when asked how companies could improve their customer services, 68% of people said “make contact numbers easier to find”, might explain this. Evidently, the contact centre still has its place.”

We will be attending the Social Customer event on Thursday and live blogging the highlights, so if you’re not able to make it along, please check out our updates.

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Developing Social CRM

March 23rd, 2012

This post has been written as a follow up to our ‘Defining Social CRM‘ post, which was developed to overview the basics of what is often a confusing but essential function for any brand that wishes to engage with the social customer.

In this post we want to look beyond defining Social CRM and offer a brief guide to developing Social CRM, identifying relevant focuses to allow you to get to grips with your brand’s requirements. But first, let’s remind ourselves of exactly what Social CRM is:

Mitch Lieberman defined it thus: “Social CRM is about bringing “me” [the social customer] into the ecosystem… It is not about the technology, it is about the people, process and cultural shifts necessary to support and grow a business.”

Or as Paul Greenberg put it: “Social CRM is the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”

Needless to say there has been a major shift in the way we communicate with our customers and we want to use this post to explore the technologies, people, processes and cultural shifts a little further.

In our last post, we referenced Esteban Kolsky’s four key areas of Social CRM as follows
1. Community management
2. Social analytics engine
3. Actionable layer unit
4. System-of-record integration layer

In this post we will break down each area and look at the relevant services/focuses that brands should be considering. Therefore we’ve re-developed the four key areas into the following action points, and offered key service areas under each:

1. Listen (to our customers and wider community to understand issues and identify pain points)

2. Capture (actionable and relevant data)

3. Learn (develop a Social CRM philosophy across the organisation.)

4. Engage (using knowledge built through phases 1-3, engage in a relevant and useful manner)

Let’s look at each area in more detail:

1. Listen

As with any area of social media, or any conversation for that matter, the best place to start is by listening. In terms of customer relationship management, the importance of listening cannot be over-exaggerated. We should only engage and add value when we have listened to and understood the issues that our customers are experiencing.

Services focuses/audit areas:

Digital / social infrastructure – Trying to run a Social CRM campaign without a socially-enabled website, relevant social profiles and the ability to engage is very difficult.

Before you go any further you need to build your brand’s Social CRM tools:
Audit your website – are you open to customer listening/engagement?
Audit your SEO – can your digital touch points be found online?
Audit/build social channels – are you open and available for customer engagement and listening outside of your direct website?

Social Media monitoring – Social CRM is often confused with Social Media Monitoring. Let’s be clear, although Social Media Monitoring is a crucial element of your Social CRM armoury, and will form a central part of the campaign, it is not enough to use monitoring alone. You must identify the relevant mentions, use the data and build that into your organisational approach. The data is only relevant if it is acted upon.

Team - Does your Social CRM response team consist of one marketing / customer services junior? This is not acceptable. Consider your customers, consider the amount of conversation about your brand, do you have the team to support this volume of data and conversation?

Training – Remember Social CRM is not a marketing or customer services tactic alone, your business needs to understand the key elements of Social CRM and act upon them. This means training and understanding needs to be organisational.

2. Capture

Once you have the platform, processes and people in place to listen, you need to feed this infrastructure with actionable and relevant data. This is the fuel that drives the Social CRM engine and the quality of the fuel will relate directly to the effectiveness of the Social CRM process.

The first stage is to capture the data and process it into the relevant focuses for your business.

Once you have the data you will quickly realise that much of it is irrelevant. It is crucial that time is not wasted feeding this information through the business and bringing on analysis paralysis.

Therefore in this layer the focus is identifying and actioning the useful data that will tell the business something about its customers, identify issues to be remedied or help to build the business by way of market research or insights.

Services focuses/audit areas:

Data Capture - Social Media monitoring will play a key role here, but we need to go deeper. Website analytics and data captured from any customer communities will be vital along with metrics available through LinkedIn groups and associated networking tools/ industry bodies.

Data Analysis – Data analysis is crucial. Do not overlook this phase as you could either strangle the process with too much data, or starve is of any useful information by only feeding it with the basics. Use experience here, make the most of your data and it will drive you to real success. If you don’t have the in-house skills utilise experienced consultants or agencies. The value you derive from the data can be extremely powerful for the business as a whole.

3. Learn

The third layer is the key to Social CRM success, which is taking Social CRM beyond a marketing or customer services specialism, and building a philosophy that translates across the organisation. If Social CRM is purely a function of customer services we are missing the point and will ultimately fail to achieve the brand’s CRM potential.

In today’s socially connected world, customers can intersect and engage with an organisation at many different points, and social customers do not follow traditional channels of communication. Therefore, the Social CRM strategy must be implemented across the business to succeed.

Service focuses/audit areas:

Internal communications of findings – There must be a process in place by which each message gets automatically routed to the right person, classifying it by type (question, complaint or compliment), content (what it actually said), sentiment, action needed, and influence. This helps to smooth the process, as you push your business towards a more open and responsive way of thinking about your customers.

Workflow tools – these tools will ensure that information created is accessible to everyone in the organisation in the same way. This creates a context for each interaction and will enable the social customer to engage with you in way that he/she finds most relevant.

Business-wide social strategy – A social business strategy is the ultimate goal. This is the heart of social conversation and the essence of a social business. If an organisation’s Social CRM strategy cannot positively impact this process then it is failing, and to succeed it must be implemented across the board.

We now learn from and engage with our customers more than ever before, but if these learnings are not translated throughout the business, we fail.

4. Engage

Social CRM isn’t just about engaging consistently, within a reasonable timeframe and adhering to corporate guidelines. The engagement needs to be relevant and useful, and not always in the form of a simple text-based response. Content can be used to engage without a complaint and to convey a key part of your offering. So don’t just think of engagement as a response. Think of it as an opportunity to build a conversation.

Let’s also be clear that you should not hold back from engaging until you have completed the three previous phases. Of course you need to engage before you have successfully implemented your social business strategy, otherwise it could take some time before we actually respond to our customers. However, the point remains we should not look at engagement as the quick fix or the first action point. It is important to respond to customer issues, but as we have said above, engagement is so much more than just responding.

Social media guidelines – These shouldn’t be an onerous book of dictations. The social media guidelines are important to communicate key aspects of the business dos and don’ts but they are not a script. The key here is ‘guideline’ we are not trying to stop our brand from engaging with humans as humans. Do not be tempted to speak in rigid legalese.

Content development – Content can be extremely powerful, from expressive video to simple slideshares, your content will make your brand more accessible, better understood and more useful. Think of content as your social currency, build it up, but don’t rely on irrelevant and slapdash content. Take quality over quantity every time. Not all content is the same, poor content will encourage a negative response, so get the right advice from those that have done it before and take the lead from the listening phase where you should understand exactly what it is that your customers want. You can find a recent case study example of a content community here.

Social tool management – this is very simple part of the process, but again it is very easy to mess up. Tone, frequency and unwritten rules are subtleties that can make all the difference. Just because someone in your team understands Facebook, it does not qualify them for the role. Invest in experience and training and heed the many case study examples of success and failure. Allocate resource relevant to your social/digital footprint and customer base. Look outside of the business if the skills are not in-house, do not give this job to the intern, because if/when something goes wrong, blaming an intern will only make the situation worse.

A thought to leave you with

If you’ve reviewed this post and ticked off the elements you want to take with you for your business or reconfirmed elements that you have already got in place, I hope the information was useful and best of luck. However, if you have written off Social CRM because your customers don’t act ‘that way’ think again. Your customer is no different, you are now dealing with the social customer who doesn’t play by traditional rules and does not accept that your brand is in charge. The social customer owns the relationship, and you need to earn his/her trust.

This post was not been designed as the definitive guide to each service area of Social CRM, but offers an introduction to reflect the activity required to build successful Social CRM.

To learn more about Social CRM, or if you would be interested in discussing any of the areas raised in this series of posts please get in touch.

We will also be taking part in the upcoming ‘Social Customer‘ event in London on March 29th, where we will be live blogging, so if you’re unable to attend please keep an eye on our blog for updates on the sessions and learnings.

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