Let’s rethink our social media priorities

Posted on March 23, 2016 10:42 am by | Customer Service | Social Media | Social networks

1:1 social media

The thousands of keynotes and other conference sessions, the billions of words penned for publications and blogs and posts, the videos and Slideshare decks and memes that all aim to illuminate us about the business-and-brand use of social media, they all share a common theme:

It’s all about the relationship.
It’s all about the conversation.

It seems that every curated newsletter I get includes studies showing brands are increasing their social media budgets. I wonder if all those dollars are being misspent. Do oh-so-clever tweets riding the coattails of whatever’s trending build relationships? Does a stream of product photos on Facebook or Instagram drive conversation?

In the course of one week, I saw two data points that pointed to the social media opportunity business is missing:

Data Point #1: More than 93% of content brands share on social media is 1:1

All but 7% of the posts, tweets, updates, and shares are messages or replies to individuals. The data comes from an analysis of 1.3 million tweets sent last year from 43 brand accounts owned by 20 of the world’s largest brands that run the gamut from high-tech companies to grocers. What’s more, the volume of 1:1 messaging increased each quarter for the entire year. (Source)

Data Point #2: The number of customers using social media for customer service has plummeted

In fact, among channels customers use for service and support, social media accounted for the greatest number of abandons. Why? It takes too long to get a response when a customer submits an inquiry. Brands’ social media capabilities for addressing customer issues are too limited in functionality. Brands can’t handle complex tasks via their social channels. (Source)

Social media and messaging apps are rapidly taking over a lot of the tasks we once used a multitude of different channels to accomplish. We get our news through our social media feeds. We can order an Uber ride with a message on Facebook Messenger. You can pay for purchases on Twitter. Social and messaging channels are becoming the Swiss Army Knife of daily life. For too many consumers, though, trying to connect with a company is an exercise in frustration.

With most of our social media efforts already aimed at individuals, but social media dollars invested in content meant for broadcast to the masses, the disconnect is apparent. Shifting the social media investment to support 1:1 conversations may not produce the kind of flashy campaigns that get written up in articles with headlines like “Six brands getting Instagram right.” It would, however, build relationships and drive conversations—those activities that social media is supposed to be all about—that create a cumulative customer experience.

Elsewhere, that customer experience represents a focus for brands. The outcomes of a great customer experience include recommendations, positive reviews, and brand ambassadorship. With each customer who abandons social media as a touch point, we lose those recommendations and reviews. We lose the possibility of converting a customer into an ambassador.

The best 1:1 engagements often become broadcast messages. I often praise Warby Parker for producing quick-and-dirty videos in response to customer questions delivered via Twitter, email, and other channels. A video response to a lone individual’s question can generation tens of thousands of views (as in this example). Customers who are surprised and delighted by the responses they get to their inquiries often share them and even write about them.

I’m not suggesting we abandon one-to-many social media efforts. A recalibration is in order, though, to ensure that the 93% of 1:1 social media engagement is strategic rather than random. That means goals are set, benchmarks established, channels opened, training conducted, metrics put in place. In the days when every employee is a brand representative, we need to ensure all those 1:1 touch points represent the brand voice, and that official representatives—like customer service and tech support staff—not only know how to use social media as just another tool for doing their jobs, but to use them in a way that surprises and delights customers and, by extension, inspires them to spread the word.

That may mean taking some of that increased social media budget away from big-budget campaigns so companies can reap the benefit of happy customers and the ability to respond to customers—or reach out to them to initiate a conversation they want to have—scales . Now that we know most of our content is already 1:1, let’s formalize it as a key means of engagement. Let’s take the relationship and conversation part of social media seriously.

Photo courtesy of International Railway Summit‘s Flickr account

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