Great customer experience is, arguably, the biggest driver of competitive advantage today. Brands are shoveling resources into creating a coherent, positive online experience for their audiences, with the modern consumer more likely to be impressed by a positive interaction than a product itself. Social media is a huge part of this process, but it’s not something that can be siloed into a team and left alone.
At the Chief Digital Officer Forum this April, Penny Wilson, Chief Marketing Officer at Hootsuite, delivered a presentation on the power of empowering everyone within an organization to be social-literate.
Social gives businesses the opportunity to hear from their customers directly and at scale. It has all but replaced focus groups and surveys, with social listening intelligence an area of serious investment and intrigue. There is, though, a significant skills gap when it comes to social media use in business. Not everyone - particularly the older generations - are comfortable with its use. But organizations need social fluency to succeed, Penny insists, and training programs for social can have a genuinely positive impact. All employees need to be brought up to speed, and all should act as brand advocates on social.
“It really needs to be an operational and cultural focus point for a company,” she says. Too many companies make the mistake of employing a social media team, or simply having a few members of marketing overseeing social, without considering the interactions customers will be having with the company online more broadly.
Find out more about the power of digital for customer engagement at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit this July 18 - 19 in New York.
Polly uses the example of Accor Hotels, a chain that wanted to improve its audience engagement on social media. Working with Hootsuite, it quickly realized that it could not effectively engage with each guest through a centralized social team. Rather, it could succeed by empowering each and every hotel to be social-literate yet consistent with the company goals and its message. They then allowed the hotels to manage their social work individually, and saw audiences double within the first year of putting the system into place. “It’s the perfect example of putting humans first, both guests and employees,” Polly says.
Accor Hotels' strategy was executed on a fairly large scale, but all businesses can learn from the basic principle of spreading social media responsibility out across an organization. Whether it be having your employees share content across their professional social accounts, or encouraging them to interact with customers, there is immense value for both the customer and the company in being universally active on social.
People used to view success on social as likes, shares, followers, and comments. They can be very easily be fed into the outcomes your business is looking for and used to demonstrate success. Metrics like these can be used to gauge your success against the competition, and it can have a clearly defined ROI. The underlying value of social, though, comes in the form of engagement, and this is far less straightforward to define. It means being on hand to answer customer queries, posting your brand's content to engage your own audience, sharing others' work - generally being active and visible on social. For many this will be most applicable on LinkedIn, but Twitter and Facebook can be a fit for some brands trying to build an engaged audience.
When empowering your employees to represent the brand on social media, it's vital that the experience is consistent across different channels and across different locations. 78% of customers told Accenture that they don't get a consistent experience from brands across social channels, yet it's something they are increasingly expecting. Give your employees a direct line of communication to your customers, ensure that they're in line with the brand message and tone, and bridge the existing gap between customer expectations and what's being delivered.