By Rohit Kapoor
Most companies with a social media practice understand the value of listening and monitoring social media conversations relating to their brands, products or services. This data can then be analyzed to gain a better understanding of what people really think about a particular product or company.
As valuable as social media listening and monitoring is, to fully unleash the ROI a comprehensive social media program can deliver, companies need to take the next step and actually engage with customers via social media. Social media engagement includes, but is not limited to, holding actual conversations with customers on the social media platforms, responding to and resolving problems and issues via social media.
The Advantages of Social Media Engagement
One of the biggest advantages social media engagement provides is one of the simplest – customers love it. Many industry studies, including a recent one from Bain, show as a percentage as high as 80% of social media customers appreciate when a company directly responds to their social media discussion, or even something as basic as a Facebook “like.”
This appreciation leads to customers being as much as four times more likely to spend money on products and services from companies that engage them via social media. Thus social media engagement can be an excellent tool to convert formerly neutral consumers into active customers.
In addition, social media engagement can be a powerful tool to respond to negative comments and transform negative customer experiences and emotions into positive ones. And by looking at issues and problems that come up in social media conversations and resolving them on the same social media platform, instead of waiting to find and reply to negative experiences through traditional channels. By doing this companies are also building a “perpetual knowledge base” for problem resolution, which is searchable for similar issues other customers might have in the future.
Risk Mitigation in a Public Environment
One of the biggest concerns companies have about engaging in conversation on a social platform is the very nature of it being ‘public’ and with it the potential downside. To mitigate this risk one needs to invest in some detailed analysis on the conversations taking place. Once the type of conversations are identified, develop guidelines using scenario based models and multilayered decision trees. Test them on an internal platform before you actually start to respond live.
BPO Serves as Important Engagement Tool
BPO can serve as a critical tool to help companies engage their customers via social media as efficiently, effectively and affordably as possible. First, BPO providers can control the potentially significant cost of social media engagement by “rightshoring” the operation and delivering services from a location where properly trained talent is available at an affordable cost.
Second, BPO providers can effectively deliver the wide scale and 24/7 global coverage a truly comprehensive social media engagement strategy requires. As business goes global, so do consumers; and social media allows consumers who have never met each other in different regions of the world to easily and instantly share information. If this information includes negative commentary on your product, service or brand, a BPO provider can immediately detect the problem and resolve it through engagement before it “goes viral.”
In addition, true social media engagement necessitates engaging customers on numerous platforms that extend far beyond traditional social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. These platforms include chat rooms, complaint forums, consumer blogs, and a host of other smaller but vital forms of online social communication. A BPO provider with a social media practice can effectively track and engage consumers on all these different platforms much more easily than a company’s internal marketing department.
Finally, BPO providers can easily offer a true “global footprint,” engaging customers in different countries using their preferred languages and social customs, all in a relative short time span.
Engagement is Coming, but Needs Help
Some companies have already launched fairly comprehensive social media engagement programs: Starbucks, Best Buy, and Dell all deserve recognition for their superior efforts in this area. In general, CPG and retail companies (especially e-retailers) have done a decent job with social media engagement, but few companies in other verticals have moved much beyond engaging with customers through their own Facebook or Twitter pages, if they’ve made it that far.
I urge any company with any kind of social media presence to immediately investigate how outsourcing can help them quickly move from passive listening and monitoring to active engagement. You will find it to be an extremely valuable feedback mechanism that not only helps your marketers, but also provides assistance to areas of the business such as R&D and product launches. In fact, social media engagement is an activity that truly touches every part of your organization. Don’t you want it handled by the most qualified people possible?