By Dan Berthiaume
As a result of the explosion of social media, customers now have a global reach and influence that companies cannot control. However, by applying the right strategies and tactics, companies can influence it.
As explained in a new white paper from Capgemini, “Harvesting the Fruit from Social Media,” although currently sentiments expressed via social media may be skewed by a vocal, polarized minority who are either extremely favorable toward or critical of specific brands and products, they still have a large multiplicative effect as they are relayed across a broad social network. Therefore, companies must learn to listen, learn, engage and act upon what they hear.
Cultivating the Social Media Opportunity
A recent survey of more than 300 senior executives within the Fortune 1000 conducted by research group Harris Interactive for Capgemini shows that almost six in 10 (57%) respondents said their respective companies do indeed already monitor online conversations relating to their brand or products/services, only a little more than one-third of these individuals (particularly those from companies with revenues greater than $10 billion USD) indicated that they attempt to measure the value from such activities, and 25% admitted to taking no action on what is observed. Moreover, three-quarters of those running these companies are incapable of estimating the number of people in the organization involved in social listening.
Thus, many American senior executives appear to understand that social media is important and know their organization is doing something about it, but lack familiarity with the details. Capgemini warns this is a dangerous situation, and in fact represents a “trap” of companies doing “something” about social media, such as starting an online fan club or buying a social listening tool, but not creating a proactive, companywide effort to truly obtain insight and value from data that can be extracted from social media.
From a strategic perspective, Capgemini recommends companies invest in social listening tools, which they can employ to sense emerging or unmet customer demands and market trends that can then be worked into product/service features. Also from a strategic perspective, learning who the opinion leaders are and engaging them in “influence” campaigns can boost sales through virtual word of mouth promotion.
From a tactical perspective, Capgemini suggests companies integrate social media platforms, systems and processes into the company’s overall operational footprint so that social media can be connected to customer service activities. Companies can thus intercept customer complaints and quickly resolve them before they escalate into viral online events.
Furthermore, while traditionally social media has been thought of as a discipline which can only be measured for qualitative, or “soft” ROI, Capgemini advises there are ways to gather both the standard direct measures such as value of call deflections and first pass resolution in service, conversion rates from online campaigns as well as new, intermediate measures like click-throughs from social sites to corporates site, number of identified influencers that a brand touches, re-tweet rates, and Twitter scores, to provide quantitative, or “hard ROI.
Recommended Steps to Obtaining Maximum Social Media Insight
Capgemini recommends the following steps for companies ready to maximize the insight and ROI they obtain from their social media activities:
Establish a governance structure: Avoid unnecessary organizational friction between functions such as marketing, customer service, PR, product development, and operations in the early days by taking a cross-functional team approach (Capgemini research indicates 9% of companies do so today). Spend some time clarifying strategy, policies, standards, and workflows associated with how you social media capabilities will be deployed. It should be less about who “owns” the responsibility and more about what business outcomes are sought and how best to organize to deliver them.
Launch a series of targeted pilot programs: Listening is important but acting is critical. Be clear on the protocols for who engages in both the proactive outreach campaigns and the customer intercepts associated with specific customer complaints/issues. Working within the cross-functional structure, devise and execute pilot programs targeting a specific segment of the market or customer population, aimed at producing a specific outcome. Be sure to measure the outcomes.
Consider outsourcing the activity: Given that many companies have been caught either ill-prepared operationally and/or unbudgeted financially for what it will take to implement their social media strategy and that the enabling technologies are still evolving, outsourcing elements of social media operations could be the fastest, most cost-efficient approach. Look for an end-to-end managed service that incorporates the technology, process management, workflow and reporting and analytics associated with the implementation, integration and management of social media related operations. While no company should totally abdicate responsibility for managing their customer relationships to a third party, it is likely that social media will mirror the standard practice of outsourcing call center operations.
Managed services for social media solutions can provide the flexibility to rapidly adjust social media plans based on business dynamics. Companies can focus on the strategy for enhancing their customer relationships and experience while the outsourcer manages the platforms and technologies needed to listen, engage, monitor, and act on what they learn. This enables companies to quickly change and evolve their strategy and approach. All of this can be delivered on an all-inclusive flat fee, subscription basis.
Editor’s Note: BPO Outcomes is hosting a special webinar to investigate how business process solutions can impact the complexity of Big Data. The webinar, featuring speakers from Alsbridge, Capgemini and BPO Outcomes, takes place July 24 at 2pm EDT. The event is free to attend, but registration is required. To register today visit our registration page.