Brands failing to work with social media advocates
Despite some fear among brand marketers, retailers need to embrace social media and convince their customers to share their positive brand experiences through social networking web sites, according to Mike Amos, president and CEO for customer experience management firm Empathica.
The company argues that organisations now have a golden opportunity to use the social media channel (including web sites such as Facebook and Twitter, among many others) to ensure that messages of great service are spread far and wide.
There are many benefits to be gained by adopting a social media strategy. Social media permits a more direct and open relationship with customers, faster measurement of marketplace response, better co-ordinated marketing activities and improved customer service. However, business use of social media is still in its infancy and organisations will have to work hard to maximise their potential in this area.
"The media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. If we could travel back in time to 1970, the world would seem a very different place," said Amos. "Consumers had very little choice in terms of the products available to them and businesses who wanted to reach out to existing or potential customers were restricted to a few communication channels. Leap forward to 2010 and the fragmentation of media has forever changed the landscape, with social media at the heart of the most recent developments."
Today, businesses not only have the option of traditional advertising methods but also a wealth of other communication channels. In 2007, 50% of all media was digital and this is expected to rise to 66% by the end of 2010 and to an impressive 80% by 2020, according to statistics from the World Association of Newspapers.
The increase in digital technologies means that businesses can reach out and talk with consumers via a number of channels in a multitude of formats. These conversations will cover not only the products and services they have or might purchase, but also their overall experience as consumers. Recent developments have meant that engaging with customers via social media is now a valuable tool to help understand their needs and wants.
The rapid growth of social media activities through web sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube means that consumers can not only share their thoughts with the company directly but also with other consumers.
This allows customers to voice their opinions and experiences with brands to a much wider audience. Naturally, this scares many organisations as there is no control over the message - a thought that can be particularly worrying for public companies with shareholders.
However, social media also represents a significant opportunity for businesses to begin a dialogue with customers and respond quickly to complaints to minimise the impact of negative feedback.
Social media can also provide the opportunity for businesses to harness positive feedback from customers. A 2009 survey by The Nielsen Company found that consumers trust their friends' opinions more than that of the brand. 90% of those surveyed said they trust completely or somewhat the recommendations of people they know, while 70% said they trust consumer opinions posted online. This compared with only 62% who trusted television advertising and 55% who trusted billboards/outdoor advertising. This research highlights the power of 'word of mouth' recommendations made via social media networks.
With these statistics in mind, organisations stand to benefit greatly from having a platform to share customer feedback. If a customer has a so-called 'Wow!' experience they need to be able to share their experiences via a social media platform.
For example, Empathica has recently launched a brand recommendation application called GoRecommend which enables brand advocates to share positive brand experiences with their friends on Facebook. The platform helps to drives retail traffic by turning excellent customer experiences into a powerful marketing tool, thanks to social media. After a customer completes an Empathica retail experience survey, the GoRecommend engine prompts those who indicated a high intent to recommend their experience to share that recommendation with their friends on Facebook. The location-specific recommendation can be posted on the recommender's Facebook profile page, which exposes the personalised recommendation to all of the user's friends via the Facebook newsfeed. The recommendation can also optionally be posted to the brand's Facebook fan page.
Such recommendations can include a coupon or an invitation for the recommender and his or her friends to join a brand's e-mail club or become a fan of the brand's Facebook fan page. This kind of engagement tool can help turn each recommendation into a personal marketing tool that both drives traffic and extends the relationship between the brand and the consumer. For example, in only 60 days more than 15,000 satisfied customers recently recommended one large restaurant chain to their friends using GoRecommend. The programme also generated over 10,000 e-mail club opt-ins and more than 1,000 new Facebook fans for the brand.
According to Empathica, many brands are still failing to take advantage of the social media channel, with less than 20% of organisations planning to use social media in their advertising strategy, according to a 2009 survey by Always On and KPMG.
This represents a missed opportunity for many of those organisations, as companies that are willing to embrace social media as part of their marketing strategy will be better positioned to improve customer engagement, give their brand advocates a platform to broadcast their positive experiences, and ultimately boost their brands and additional sales.