Believe it or not, we’re now a decade into the concept of mainstream social media. It was May 2003 when LinkedIn first hit the Web and it was only 2004 when Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg. It was only seven years ago, 2007 to be exact, when Jack Dorsey sent the first tweet from the first Twitter account, appropriately just @Jack.
These are perhaps our most influential and real-time informational tools, and Twitter has been dubbed “The pulse of the planet.” Social media surrounds us and we bring it to work every day. Our children use it and our grandparents are starting to get it.
Even so, as we reach a decade of using social networks and social media as personal and professional tools, companies are still getting even the basics so wrong.
Consider the UK retail chain HMV’s rogue employee live tweeting a mass layoff, or when Burger King was famously hacked and their social media team was inactive for hours. Social media is an incredible way to connect to your customer base, but only if you’re willing to use it as such, and for that to happen, you have to treat it as more than a simplified and cheap customer face of your brand.
Yes, brands need to interact with fans through social media, but they also need to integrate their automated social media tracking system with their back-end systems like loyalty, transaction, and billing to make personalized offers, right-time engagement and gain a more complete view of each customer’s wants and needs. In this new social era, customer profiles shouldn’t just have loyalty point totals and past purchase history, but also likes, retweets, check-ins, and shares in context with every other system.
Two Perfectly Simple Examples, Two Positive Results
Example 1 – Foursquare and a bar
I caught a flight from Gatwick to Edinburgh, checked into Foursquare when I landed and caught a taxi. Within three minutes of checking in, I received a tweet from Ryan’s Bar in the West End of Edinburgh saying they have some good deals. A quick Twitter conversation later and I was redirecting the taxi to Ryan’s Bar for food, a gin, and a chat with the people responsible to understand how they did it. It was all integrated, monitoring social media activity for people who were arriving into Edinburgh and offering deal suggestions for a place to eat and drink.
Example 2 – Twitter and an airline
When I was working in Amsterdam during the snowy chaos of December 2011, I was traveling with KLM. When the boards lit up with cancellations, I knew that making a phone call to Customer Services was going to be a hard task, so I turned to the @KLM Twitter account for help. Within minutes they responded and we were exchanging Direct Messages resulting in one of their team calling me to change my flights.
Go one step further with full social media integration
Ryan’s Bar and KLM are two very simple, personal cases when a company and brand got it right with a basic integration to customer service and marketing back-ends. Imagine what a company could do with connected billing systems, transaction handling, loyalty systems, campaign management, and automated responses.
With a real-time interface to track and monitor all social activity within a single dashboard, you have an incredibly powerful tool to manage and understand every customer touch point. Now every mention of a brand on any social platform is captured and can be correlated with rules based on anything from region, to user profile, to billing history, just when a customer engages. The aggregation of social media data and crowd-generated information in real time is incredibly powerful for brands.
Lack of an integrated back-end has become an empty gesture
But how many brands out there still don’t collect even a Twitter ID when a customer registers with them? How can a business monitor whether someone mentioning a bad experience on social media is just mouthing off by proxy or an actual customer with an issue if there’s no way to tie that back into your systems with a genuine customer record?
A “Like Us On Facebook” message becomes a hollow request if it’s only to collect another numerical statistic and not use that connection as a chance to understand that consumer’s behavior and attitudes towards your brand and product.
If a customer retweets a message or becomes a strong brand advocate that leads to friends buying the product or service, shouldn’t you reward that customer? Rather than sending an obligatory 5% discount coupon through email with the “Dear <MailMerge ID>” header, send a personalized discounted offer that is tailored to customer interaction types through their social media.
Look at how Oreo responded to the Super Bowl blackout with a single graphic that went viral. They’ve baked social media into the DNA of their business. Social has become integrated into everything they do, from marketing to decision making, and has turned the brand into a proactive leader whose brand become more relevant in seconds than it had been for decades.
Social as the new call-center
In order to achieve this kind of intelligence, you need to integrate social media across all your systems and customer records. It becomes part of your decision making and the overall customer experience just as a call-center did all those years ago. You don’t run a call-center as a standalone entity with no integration to your customer and back-end systems, so why would you with social media?
Editor’s note: Just today, Seth Godin published a piece on his blog that is very relevant on the topic:
Social media is a marathon, a gradual process in which you build a reputation. The best time to start was a while ago. The second best time to start is today. But turning it up to 11 isn’t going to get you there faster.