At Echo Research we are in the business of helping our clients understand the media landscape in which their brand appears and how best to interact with this media. Up until recently this was a relatively straightforward exercise, as we were largely dealing with established media sources whose reporting characteristics and target audiences were well known.
The advent of social media has added new colour and texture to this landscape. Where we were once surveying a level ground of almost predictable media channel behaviour, we are now facing a rocky terrain of communication uncertainty, ever-changing consumer engagement and a new breed of opinion leaders who can make or break reputation in minutes.
This outlook leaves many a communication team and brand manager with a dilemma: how to understand social media and make it work for their brand to achieve the most meaningful returns and levels of engagement. Crucial to understanding this landscape and how to engage with it is the need for social media measurement.
Understand why you are using social media channels: What is your business hoping to achieve through posting on these various channels? Define the outcomes you expect to see. Are they greater brand recognition? Rising follower numbers? A chance to grow customer base? Or are you doing it because you want to keep pace with your competitors? Without knowing 'why', you won't be able to develop the 'how' and the measurement of the 'what'.
Know the difference between social platforms: Not all social platforms are built equal. The scope for brands to promote themselves and the behaviour of fans are different on Facebook than they are on Twitter. As such, do not treat all fans and followers as equal. Target different fan demographics and the platforms they choose with different, tailored messages. Fans are individuals - hit them with messages and campaigns that are individual to them.
The KPI: develop a set of indicators that are in line with your business goals. Take time to think about point 1 so your approach to measurement is built around what you are hoping to achieve.
Measurement madness: just because something can be measured, doesn't mean you should. Start small with a concise number of KPIs that provide relevant and actionable measures for your business. More measurement produces more data. Bigger data produces headaches when it comes to extracting insight and intelligence.
Match KPIs with platforms: build metrics specific to each network. You cannot compare a fan with a follower, a like with a share, so don't try. Consider point 2 in order to determine useable KPIs on the platforms of choice.
Numbers game: fans and followers are more than simple subscriber numbers. Sure, you can measure a certain amount of success by rising numbers of fans and followers. However, to determine the value of these you need to understand who they are, their motives and intents. Are they passive subscribers or brand advocates? How do you interact with them and nurture their potential to be brand ambassadors? Never place too much value on follower numbers at the expense of sentiment and support.
Collect. Interpret. Learn: evaluate your measurement results and learn from them. Re-assess your KPIs and the social platforms you are operating in. Measurement is an ongoing and evolving process so continue to question 'why', 'how' and 'what'.
It's undoubtedly the summer of comic book and Sci Fi this year, traditionally a niche genre but with a summer line-up that includes Gravity, Elysium, Star Trek, Thor, Man of Steel, Oblivion, Enders Game, After Earth, Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D, The World's End, Riddick, there's a definite theme Hollywood is banking on this year.
Of course breaking from tradition always brings a certain amount of risk with it but in the modern consumer age it's safe to say that for the entertainment industry as a whole, the stakes and risks are higher than ever.
The cost of movie making and producing TV series has reached record levels. The huge investments needed to make and promote entertainment material, coupled with the blurring lines between TV/DVD and on demand internet services have lead to a many a sleepless night for those in the entertainment industry.
Marketing campaigns are more advanced than ever, going out across multiple platforms but there are other factors that affect the success of a new offering aside from how well it's publicised.
It's a question of Influence
Once the marketing and advertising was done, a successful TV show, band, play or film used to rely on media/critic reviews and simple word of mouth to promote themselves. To a certain extent, mediocre or badly received products could still find success because of how slowly this information passed.
The world today is dominated by social media. The benefits it provides for viral marketing are well known but the risks and problems it creates influencing the opinion of entertainment consumers are just beginning to be understood.
With so many viewpoints available, consumers are slowly moving away from the mainstream media outlets to guide them in choosing what entertainment to spend their money on as seen by the falling readerships of mainstream newspapers, falling TV viewership and the rise of so many blogs, websites and YouTube channels reviewing and commenting on film, TV and music.
Sentiment can, and in many cases is, now be led by bloggers and tweeters. Anyone with access to the internet can now be a potential critic, influencing the opinions of their small or large circles, who then in turn pass their opinion on to their circles, the ripple effect.
Of course this isn't revolutionary, most successful brands in the entertainment industry use services to collect this data to gain insights, warn them of potential issues that could threaten a new release's success but increasingly the question is becoming, 'What to do with the data?'
Many services provide big data, large clumps of volumetric stats such tweets, Facebook likes & numbers of fans or followers but this large data is increasingly leaving marketing less informed than when they started.
Not all social media data is pertinent. Sure, volume is always a great indicator but in the social media world you need the analysis agency to also understand the value of insight. Facebook likes for instance can be a questionable currency of measuring marketing success. Sometimes campaigns with a one off prize can get a brand huge numbers of Facebook likes at it will seem like job done. But measuring the volume of social media traffic aimed at your brand is only half the story.
A complete service agency needs to have the expertise to evaluate the full ecosystem of communications that come together to effect a brands reputation: Press releases, financial results, advertising, CEO statements, company messages, corporate CSR policy, what mainstream media is writing about the brand behind the release. Every one of these factors and more affects what is being said organically in blogs and forums as well as on Twitter and a brand's Facebook Page.
Focusing on just the sanitised social media space a brand creates for itself will not give an accurate or full story of how that brand is perceived or help to understand how each factor effects.
More than numbers
Insight, direction, answers. This is what marketers, Comms and PR professionals are looking for from media analysis, not just figures.
An entertainment brand and its offerings are affected by so many reputational factors that having a complete picture to make effective decisions means drilling down through the large data, finding the key influencers, identifying the issues that really matter, using human intelligence and experience to interpret the numbers and use them as supporting evidence for conclusions and recommendations.
Keen in the minds of consumer social marketers is getting measurable ROI on any campaign, promotion or initiative launched within the user generated space. The quick and easy approach to quantifying ROI is to try and put a value on the number of fans or followers a brand achieves at any given time. A notional value per fan multiplied by the number of fans achieved can result in a pretty solid ROI measurement.
But is this enough of a measure of the true value of a brand's fanbase, or perhaps more importantly, a measure of the true quality of each and every fan?
Attributing value to fans was a topic that came up for discussion at last week's #smlondon gathering hosted by Adobe's head of social strategy Jeremy Waite. During his chat about how social brands connect with their fanbase, he shared a slide which referred to an enlightening study by Syncapse which, through an 'Empirical Review', charted the Value of a Facebook Fan in 2010. Through a rigorous approach to valuating a Facebook fan, Syncapse could then enable consumer marketers and brand managers to better plan, execute and measure their return on Facebook investment, they said.
All good stuff. But in my mind there's a couple of points we can raise here: first this approach has solely looked at Facebook and clearly there are other impactful routes for social brand managers to use in targeting the consumer market. And second it assumes that by attributing all fans a value you have a sensible measure of success at any given point in time.
I'm no consumer marketer or brand manager so will not look further at routes to market. But coming from a background of content evaluation, I wanted to explore the idea of measuring success. I was intrigued by this approach and began to question whether putting a monetary value on a brand's social platform fanbase was a full enough reflection of fan or follower engagement.
It's not all about the numbers
Both consumer brands and consumers alike get satisfaction from seeing a growing number of followers and their expressions of appreciation (likes, shares, links-to and retweets). And given that a value can be attributed to all these fans and followers, rising numbers of supporters must mean that things are going in the right direction?
It is one thing to have fan and follower numbers rising, and assume that with this rise comes a rise in fan value. But it is something else to identify within those numbers the people who really count for a brand. Marketers can quite happily establish a monetary value per fan, but I was keen to look a little closer at the fans themselves: their affinities and loyalties. Who are a the advocates and loyalists, people who in my opinion hold huge inherent value to any brand that can't be easily measured by dollar signs alone? To separate the advocates from the generic fans and followers, we need to be clear on who an advocate is and what extended value they can bring to a brand.
Bottom line is an advocate is someone who stands out as wanting to repeatedly engage with a brand and others on behalf of that brand. Advocates are loyal, satisfied brand endorsers and customers. Brands will be short-sighted if they overlook these in the quest for more follower numbers. Numbers represent audience, but they are not necessarily followers who can bring about action or change regarding a brand.
The inherent value in advocates goes beyond propensity to spend on a brand; it goes towards driving and maintaining a consumer community engaged with the offerings of that brand. We know that brand advocates are 83% more likely to share content about your brand than standard fans (source: BzzAgent). We also know that 92% of consumers trust brand advocates (source: Nielsen). That's some real added value if brand advocates are identified correctly and nurtured by marketers and brand managers.
While Syncapse's approach holds some merit in measuring ROI, I believe that there are other factors in play that go beyond the attribution of a cash value to a fan, and these factors should also be considered when trying to put value on a fanbase volume.
In light of the recent tragic events in the US it struck me how the way I receive and search for the latest news has changed and that social media is being used more and more as a real-time news network.
As I cultivated my Twitter account I began following the BBC and various other news accounts including industry specific tweeters. The more I did this the less I searched the news websites and only use these to get the full story if something in twitter grabs my attention.
I find that Twitter is the ideal place for breaking news. Usually when a story first breaks there may only be 140 characters worth of information anyway. The instant reaction to a story is what makes this process feel more human to me. The outpouring of public support and solidarity over Twitter that followed the Boston Marathon bombing was heart-warming and reassuring. It helped restore some faith in humanity and the hashtagging brings together an instant community which can offer support and information and critical times.
It brings another dimension to events when you hear about it first-hand. Witnesses to the marathon were tweeting and a Vine video of the first blast quickly engulfed social media. During the Texas factory fire a spectator took the time to film the explosions between running for safety and streamed it online. This type of coverage gives everyone access to instant reaction, true and immediate feelings and receiving the news as it happens (often while reporters are still rushing to the scene).
Social media also gave practical support to the Marathon bombings as Google launched a person finder and the FBI used crowdsourcing technologies to trawl spectators' cellphone photos, Vine videos, and Instagram feeds to look for potential suspects.
There is, of course, a downside to this unfiltered news format. Wrong information is often posted in haste leading to innocent people becoming suspects or inaccurate death tolls circulating. The New York Times posted that the death toll was at 12 when in fact, at that time, it was only two, having been retweeted, this incorrect information reached an astounding number of people who often read it as fact. A rumour also began that the son of actress Denise Richards was one of the victims when actually the real victim's mother just has a similar name. After the Texas explosion a photo was widely circulated showing a huge mushroom of smoke but was actually of a 2008 oil refinery explosion in Big Spring, Texas.
Although it is useful to have breaking news flagged up via social media, it should probably be seen as just that; 'flagging up'. The standard online news platforms still hold their prominent positions in bringing up to date, accurate news but social media is fast becoming the initial point of information for many as this infographic from SocialMediaToday.com shows.
The annual World Federation of Advertisers Global Marketer Week (#gmw2013) kicked off in earnest in Brussels yesterday. The highlight of the first afternoon was the presentation of the CMO World Tour by Frederic Colas (@fredcolas), Chief Strategic Officer of the Fullsix
In 2012, Fred took time out from a hectic marketing career to travel the world with his family, and during this time he interviewed and filmed world-leading CMOs about their personal use of social and digital media, how new media have changed their view of marketing, and how this has impacted upon their jobs. With the backing of Facebook, Colas has produced a low-budget, high-quality content snapshot of contemporary CMO opinion of the most talked about and misunderstood aspect of modern marketing.
Some consensus views emerging from Fred's research include:
But in a spread that continually seems to beggar the rules of the normal distribution, most companies claim that they are actually lagging behind the drive to digital. The barriers Fred identified to more effective adoption of digital communications include:
But these barriers, reasons and excuses are starting to wear thin, particularly as many brands are starting to make real progress and deliver genuine, measureable ROI through digital.
|Titbit of the day: we learned that more people are connected to mobiles than to running water in India - one of those killer stats you want to repeat until mobile marketing properly takes off.|
Ebiquity is the Effectiveness Partner of the WFA and sponsor of the WFA's 60th anniversary dinner on Wednesday 6 March 2013 in Brussels.
Two things struck me about Jeremy Hazlehurst's Management Today article about the rising influence of PR - which I'd strongly urge anyone with the slightest interest in PR, communications or reputation to read. Firstly, how come Tim Bell can smoke in his office and secondly the cyclical nature of which discipline curries favour with the top brass and
Don't get me wrong, I'm as pleased as anybody that communications professionals are finally being recognised for their work and that reward is coming in the form of taking the helm of proper, big business - the right skills at the right time! Jane Wilson nails it for me, "Your image is what you put out, your reputation is what comes back at you". If reputation is the Holy Grail, then doing what you can to shape and protect it must be pretty high up on any CEO's 'to do' list and who better than someone who knows the art of communications inside out.
What does surprise me though is why, in this ultra connected world where seemingly nothing goes unnoticed and heaven forbid anyone tells an "untruth" as it WILL get found out and if you're newsworthy enough it WILL go viral, businesses are not looking at how all their available communications channels are working together to shape reputation and build a better business.
If the 70s and 80s belonged to advertising, 90s was strategists, 00s was HR then surely the teenties, 10s (whatever we're calling this decade?) should belong to the integrated business? Now there's a very good reason why that should be led by a communications professional - Jeremy has made that point - you need a clear and consistent message to be sent out otherwise how can you expect it to be played back to you? But if PR is now to the fore because of its ability to tackle and tell the truth then surely that has to pervade everything the business does - its proposition, how it operates, what it tells its people and how it advertises its wares?
If a business is going to deal in honesty and integrity then that needs to be evident in everything it does. What's the point in positioning yourself as a caring, people-friendly, customer focussed business if that's not what you get when you walk in the shop or buy online....you WILL get found out and it WILL go viral.
The point I'm making is that if your business is not a connected business then how can you expect to make the maximum impact on your intended audience and how can you expect to give your reputation the maximum boost?
Through our work we are privileged enough to partner with those clients who understand the importance of measuring not only what is being said about them but also the impact it has on their reputation. And since we joined the Ebiquity family in 2011 we have taken the integrated leap and are now starting to help clients link the impact of all their communications channels PR, advertising, internal comms and social media. Are they speaking with one voice and if not why not?
As someone once said, nobody said it was easy, but the reality is that customers no longer differentiate between what type of communications they are being exposed to so why should businesses differentiate between how they use them? Good clear and consistent communications should be at the heart of everything a business does and how it helps to shape its reputation.
This week, the Facebook-owned photo service Instagram announced that it would be changing its EULA (End User Licence Agreement) to allow itself to sell user photos without notifying the photos' original uploaders. This comes only a month after Facebook Vice-President of Global Marketing Solutions, Carolyn Everson, said: "Eventually we'll figure out a way to monetise Instagram".
As usual Twitter users were the most vocal and least appreciative with their comments.
(taken from a sample of replies to a Tweet by USA TODAY)
The word monetisation seems to be a tad overused in relation to internet stories these days but when you dissect the mechanics bringing you services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google's free tools, it becomes rather like answer to life, the universe and everything in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: we already know the answer (and it's not 42!) but we now need to know the question.
Take Facebook as an example. To run a global site like Facebook is a huge and costly enterprise. If you were thinking of doing this yourself to the same scale, first of all you would need server farms to host the thing. One in each area you want to deliver the service to. Global company? You're going to need a few of those.
Each server farm is a huge futuristic facility with industrial cooling and millions of pounds worth of server equipment that constantly needs monitoring, repairing and replacing. To do this you can't just rely on local IT support from the yellow pages either, you are going to need a lot of very highly trained professionals, the kind that are quite rare and never come cheap.
On top of these you will need all the staff, offices and organisation that any large corporation would need as well as a development team taken from the top mathematicians and programmers the world has to offer. Again, these don't come cheap.
You begin to realise that revenue made just from advertising may not stretch far enough to cover the vast costs involved in running a service on this scale and start to understand why 'monetisation' is so important to the people tasked with making these enterprises profitable.
I know this is unlikely to garner any sympathy for a sector which has made massive profits over the last few years while everyone else has been tightening their belts, but it does raise another point: how well are these organisations handling their communications to a user base who behave at times like a herd that will only graze on the greenest grass and happily follow each other to pastures new?
Back to our example, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have gone to great lengths to tell the story of the boy with an idea who fought the establishment and changed the world. Something that rouses the underdog-supporting, rebellious streak that exists in all of us but demands no more allegiance than simply creating a Facebook account to feel like part of the movement.
But communications like the aforementioned overuse of the word 'monetisation' by the Vice-President of Global Marketing Solutions can pop the bubble of the story that the social media use to sell themselves, be it bringing people together, providing a creative outlet for everyone or championing freedom of speech. Badly timed communications can remind everyone they are infact another multi-billion dollar corporation.
As with all other forms of business, understanding, coordinating and evaluating communications is key to success and when your user base is willing to mass-migrate in an instant, great care must be taken to establish, understand and protect any online service's brand reputation.
Because however these services choose to raise their revenue, retaining their user base is vital to their continued success. Instagram & Facebook are savvy enough operators to realise this and so they quickly reversed their decision to change their policies and put an immediate halt to the user migration that had started. Time will tell if there is any lasting reputational damage or loss of trust.
by Tom Mattey. Twitter: @graphical_tom
Earlier this week, I attended a PR Week conference on reputation management strategy. A chance to take the temperature of client and agency thinking on measurement of corporate and brand reputation; a chance to network with peers, rivals, clients and prospects; and, a chance to reflect on best practice. And perhaps - above all - a chance to think, to reflect on the dominant themes shaping industry understanding of how best to assess the impact of earned media and stakeholder opinion.
Practitioners, both agencies and client side, are all now well aware of the ways in which social media has changed brand and reputation management for good. Brand custodians now see only partial control as the new normal, and new paradigms and orthodoxies are really starting to take shape. And while many have built and are proud to showcase new methodologies of reputation measurement, what surprised me was that so many are still making up their minds about what they should be measuring, how and why.
And that focus is the nub of continued confusion, I think. If you're focused on the outputs of comms and the impact of these outputs on reputation, you're only ever going to scratch the surface. What matter are outcomes. It's not so much what's been produced - from retweets and likes to good old-fashioned column inches - it's what those outputs have done to change attitudes, behaviours, beliefs and advocacy. And it's only by linking communications measurement to business objectives and outcomes that we can know if there was any point doing what we set out to do.
The conference got off to a blistering start, with Conrad Bird from the Prime Minister's Office giving a compelling case history of the six-department GREAT Britain campaign. Just ten months old, riding on the coattails of the Olympics and triumphant in its recent "BOND IS GREAT Britain" activation around Skyfall, the campaign has already grown UK plc by a claimed quarter of a billion pounds on a ten-country investment of just tens of millions.
We learnt lots from Sky, Shell and Arcelor Mittal. I found Arcelor Mittal's Ian Louden's definition of reputation particularly appealing: Reputation + Aspiration = Brand, where Reputation is what people remember about us based on what we've done historically, Aspiration is our future promise, and so Brand is the whole concept of who we are, of what we stand for.
The savage independence of Stephen Jolly, Director of External Affairs and Communications from Cambridge University, was a blast of fresh air after lunch. In the same session, we also learnt that Mumsnet now makes as much as 25% of its revenue from insight alone, conducted directly with among its membership.
The day was rounded out by two barnstorming performances. First up was Alex Pearmain, the head of social media at O2 with whom I shared a platform earlier this year to launch the #smcustomer research we at Echo had conducted with Fishburn Hedges. Alex's storytelling about the dynamics and lessons learned from adopting a tongue-in-cheek yet respectful tone of voice during O2's mass outage last year are getting richer and more rounded. Alex will be missed when he moves on from O2 in the near future, but O2's loss is very definitely Brands2Life - and its clients' - gain.
The keynote to close the day came from PwC's Head of Reputation and Policy, Richard Sexton. He skilfully pulled together a number of key strands about earning and maintaining trust. He boiled it down to having more authentic conversations with the people and stakeholders who matter.
Delivering on your promises.
Doing the right thing.
In the age of social media more than ever, you can't demand to be trusted. You have to earn it.
Social media have given a generation the freedom to say what they like with almost no accountability or comeback. For many people, these media are the first places to go to let off steam and express (often strong) views and opinions. They have provided accessible platforms for people outside the media industry to affect and shape the reputation of individuals and organisations.
Expressing opinions gives people a voice and allows them to be involved in the discussion. In many cases companies are using new media to learn from and engage directly with their consumers. The concern for many is that, because it can be used as a damaging tool and with such limited control or regulation, do companies have as much protection as individuals?
On individual cases, the legalities are becoming clearer and in the court case mentioned above, the law gives the victims and alleged victims of rape and other sexual offences lifelong anonymity. Those commenting on the case, therefore, are deemed to have broken the law by simply naming the victim on Twitter and can be held accountable.
In traditional media, individuals and businesses are protected by slander and defamation laws. In the case of social media, the most appropriate legislation for an organisation would be the Malicious Falsehood law (intentionally false statements made to cause damage to a person's business reputation), but complainants must be able to prove that: a) the person who published the statement did so knowing it was false or did not care whether it was false or not, and b) financial loss has to have been caused or is likely to have been caused.
There have not been any high profile social media 'malicious falsehood' cases to set the precedent yet and I doubt there will be. Social media move at such a pace that a costly court case would take a long time to reach a conclusion and the outcome would be almost pointless as the damage would already have been done. It is more effective for companies, instead, to embrace and engage in these conversations.
As reputation experts, we at Echo Research have certainly seen a rise in companies using social media to their advantage and, although they will never be able to control the content, they can 'get involved' and counteract negativity with proactivity. They should also be using negative opinion as a guide to emerging issues and respond accordingly. If tracked in the right way it can become an extremely insightful tool.
A recent abusive tweet to Team GB diver Tom Daley sparked the Director of Public Prosecutions to issue a rethink about social media rules on abuse, saying: "in my view, the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media". It leads me to wonder if this discussion should be widened out to protect organisations or should freedom of speech allow people to air their views and frustrations about businesses regardless of the negative effect?
a) Ignore it
b) Go through a long a costly court case or
c) Embrace, join in and use it to your advantage
Done right, our money is on c).
Sam Knowles charts the rise of the social media consumer.
Social media has changed the world - and particularly the world of brand management. Influential and connected consumers, customers and stakeholders are increasingly playing a key role in building and sustaining - but also damaging - corporate and brand reputations.
Our recent research for both UK-based PR consultancy Fishburn Hedges and American Express have charted the inexorable rise of the social media customer.
The Fishburn Hedges study shows that by April 2012, more than a third of Britons (36%) had interacted with brands through social media. This has nearly doubled in just eight months. In August 2011 just 19% of British consumers had used social media in this way.
Similarly, the 2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer showed that 17% of Americans had used social media at least once in the past year to obtain a customer service response. These studies show that the brands that embrace social media and use it intelligently as a customer service tool will be the long-term winners in the reputation game.
Twitter is fast becoming the new call centre, and this will have a profound impact on how companies monitor, staff and respond to customer comments and complaints.
The Fishburn Hedges study found that using social media to interact with brands is more satisfying for the complainant. Sixty-five per cent of consumers who complain on social media prefer it and call centres have become a turn-off.
Novelty is part of the appeal but also thanks to social media's real-time immediacy, customers are getting responses that are dealt with more personally and more quickly than ever before.
Moreover, more than two-thirds (68%) of those who have used social media channels to communicate with brands believe it gives them a greater voice, and 40% of all consumers believe that social media has improved customer service for good - whether or not they currently use social media for customer service.
Similarly, American Express's 2012 Customer Service Barometer found that US consumers who use social media for customer service are more likely to tell others about their customer service experiences, spend more with a company they feel provides excellent customer service and abandon a purchase due to a poor service experience.
Using social media for customer service is also not just the province of the younger, Generation Y and Generation Facebook customers. The Fishburn Hedges study found that not only had almost half of 18-24 year-olds questioned dealt with a brand using social media, but that 38% of 35-44s and 27% of over 55s had done the same. As social media comes of age, the proportions for all age groups are increasing.
Out in the open
Using social media in this way is, of course, much more open and permanent. This makes it potentially more damaging to brands and companies. When a consumer tweets how dissatisfied she is with a hotel, @ing the company Twitter account, she not only records a complaint with the brand.
When a frustrated broadband customer posts a blog linked from his Facebook page about being disconnected for the fifth time that week, it doesn't just arrive in the cable company's inbox.
Echo's study for American Express have found that those in the US who use social media for customer service tell more than three times as many people about poor service than those who don't use social media in this way. The upside is that when it comes to good service, the number is nearly five to one.
The implication is clear: get it wrong, and you'll be flamed; get it right, and you're using social media to capture and harness a volunteer sales force. Companies that engage in the right way can turn detractors into advocates.
The way social media currently works also varies from country to country. Fifty-four per cent of Indian consumers have used social media to get a customer service response during the past year, 45% in Mexico and 30% in Italy. This contrasts with just 10% in France.
Consumers in the US and Germany are most likely to use social media to get an actual response to help with a service issue (50% of those polled). Those in the UK are more likely to use social media to vent frustration with a bad customer service experience (46%), while consumers in India are most likely to ask questions of others via social media (also 46%).
On average, nearly half of consumers who have used social media to get a customer service response see an improvement in terms of how quickly they feel companies respond to general inquiries or complaints. Consumers in India (80%) and Mexico (72%) are most likely to say that companies have generally improved.
Do the right things
As part of our research for Fishburn Hedges, in-depth, qualitative interviews with social media pioneers inside savvy brands helped us to identify a range of best practices (see box). Companies that make best use of social media for customer service are fleet of foot. They don't let genuinely damaging content linger and fester. But they also are selective about what they respond to, when and how they respond to it.
Just because an individual - or a group of connected individuals - are talking negatively about your product, don't just dive in and try to sort the problem out for effective engagement. It is critically important to understand the full context of the comments and complaints.
There's plenty of evidence that more and more companies are looking to emulate these pioneers. A snapshot of jobs advertised on LinkedIn during one month in 2012 found vacancies for 279 heads of social media and 1,062 social media consultants. What's more, 134,974 roles had "social media" in their job title or job description.
The rise of social media has made service quality more transparent and important than ever before. Brands and services that fail to live up to their promises will draw the opprobrium of disgruntled customers, criticism that often leaves an indelible trace for future customers to find.
Establishing relationships with customers, listening to their comments and complaints, and sorting out problems quickly and politely can stop a complaint dead in its tracks. Our research shows that customer service has become a strategic differentiator in the marketplace.
Social media in customer service is taking off as real people are responding, rather than callers being stuck behind automated call routing and messaging. The best companies are training and releasing their staff to manage this in a professional and responsible manner. Welcome to the new world of 'social business'.
Best practice for social media customer service
1. Don't be paralysed by uncertainty: where call centres arguably erect barriers between brands and customers, social media can remove them and bring proximity. It shouldn't be a psychological straitjacket, so join in - but clearly define your strategy first.
2. Don't let social media define you: your brand must define it. It must be a continuation of the brand using the appropriate channels and not a knee-jerk reaction to following how others are using it.
3. Make more of the emotional insight you have: customer data offers insight into behaviour, but social media takes that to a different level, enabling brands to tap into emotions.
4. Pick your battles - but enter them fast: speed is critical in the real-time world of social media, but brands should not feel the pressure to answer every query put to them.
5. Address structural barriers in the business, not just headcount: there are many ways to resource social, and new hires are not always necessary. Try sharing expertise and removing structural barriers first.
6. Fear not the #fail: No one is perfect and sometimes, just sometimes, it is simply a flash in the pan.
Jeremy Cowles"7 Tips for Social Media Measurement"
Kirsten Fernie"The big picture - Media evaluation for the entertainment industry has evolved"
Jeremy Cowles"Value in volume: dimensions of ROI for social media marketers"
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