Our CEO Josh wrote about the need to carefully target social marketing in this CMO byline.
You can read the article in full below, or follow this link to see it on the CMO website.
Facebook and Twitter occupy a unique position among online communication channels. Despite the public, open nature of these platforms, they can be viewed closer to email and direct mail than other online channels. While your customers have to visit your Web site directly to receive updates, for example, on social networks you’re sending messages straight into their personal news feeds.
Indeed, there’s a lot to consider when using social media to deliver information, and fears about being intrusive are valid. To publish or not to publish is clearly a tricky question. Your customers are trying to get service from you through social media, but not all marketers are equipped to deliver, and customer-service agents’ access to send messages on social networks has been slow to take off. And a recent article about “Facebook flame wars’” revealed that posting status updates in response to a PR crisis could add fuel to the fire, inviting more customers to wade in each time.
It’s important to understand when to reply to individuals and when to post a message to all. But something to bear in mind whenever publishing is, “Am I offering something valuable?” If you have information to share, which many of your customers are already seeking, it makes sense to broadcast it. It’s a quick and effective way to show that you’re aware of your customers’ problems and are doing something about them.
For example, I’m regularly asked, “Should we use updates to share service issues?” I'm perpetually confused by the fear around this. Customers are already reaching out with direct issues, indicating clearly what kind of relationship they expect in social media. Recent Facebook polls revealed that 46% of users seek news and product information when they become a fan. In our own research, we found that huge volumes of complaints and questions can be attributed to specific cases snowballing. Service disruptions or widespread delivery delays can generate thousands of inquiries. Don’t wait for customers to tweet or comment before you provide them with useful information. Be proactive.
Most companies try and contain social-customer service, whether by pushing issues to a dedicated Facebook tab or keeping a strictly segregated customer service Twitter account. This doesn’t work as planned; in our own Facebook studies, we found that customers weren’t deterred from posting on a public wall, and, in fact, complained that they were asked to resubmit their inquiries. Using a dedicated service account for publishing updates about issues reaches only those who have decided to follow that account, rather than your wider customer base who could be affected. What’s more, you can’t reach your fans in their news feeds by taking this approach. Even where not directly relevant (say, certain fans and followers haven’t recently purchased anything, so order delays won’t affect them), this forethought shows consideration. It’s not self-serving, but designed to provide information to customers. Yet many social marketers are afraid of loosening the reins on publishing, though access to that information could save your time and reputation.
Some hesitancy is merited. Spamming your customers is bad news. If you don’t provide relevant news and service, then they just won’t listen anymore. Here are three precautionary measures you can put in place to make sure you strike the balance between being informative and an irritation.
1. Geotargeting is key in Facebook if you operate a universal page for regional and international customer segments: Take the time to consider who you’re actually trying to speak to. Is it really every fan? Like any other message you send out, your customers can’t be tarred with the same brush.
Unnecessary updates of any kind can be avoided. Are delivery delays affecting only one state or county? Just let those people know. Facebook allows you to target messages right down to specific towns.
But it’s not just the customer-service reps who need to stop and think about relevancy. This is an area that marketers should be well-versed, but many companies fail to target messages on social platforms. Promoting deals universally, which aren’t available to all, isn’t just an issue of irrelevant noise; it creates dissatisfaction in those who feel excluded. Suddenly your company’s offering appears unsatisfactory, and your customer may seek a company that can provide the service you placed in their minds.
2. Rules and guidelines: Structure is important. Yes, give your customer-service department access to social publishing, but don’t let this happen in an ad-hoc fashion. Liaise with the customer-service manager and organize processes for keeping your fans and followers informed of major service updates. Decide what counts as universally significant. Two heads are better than one; together you’ll be able to establish a strong idea of which issues are likely to escalate without intervention.
3. Communication chains: It’s important that those dealing with social engagement are aware of any existing, widespread customer problems. Marketers aren’t used to considering real-time issues, but for companies to be ignorant of their customers’ current problems in a two-way space can cause a serious backlash. Understanding the best times to post requires cooperation throughout your organization. Service updates and marketing posts need to be well-coordinated. First, you need to get the frequency of posts right or else you risk flooding your customers’ news feeds if different departments have distinct publishing agendas. Second, despite your best efforts, marketing updates will often be a trigger for customers to share their grievances. Customer-service teams often need to be well-prepared for outgoing marketing updates in order to respond to any resultant grumbles.
Use your social-broadcast power to offer fans and followers what they want: a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship that serves as the first point of information.You’re already being shown their expectations. Think about what’s best for your customers.
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