Social media engagement: The pursuit of fools?

2nd Jul 2013

We often hear it said that social media is all about engagement. It’s certainly a more mature point to make than social media is all about getting as many fans as you possibly can, but I can’t help asking: what does engagement really achieve in the long term?

In the first instance, it depends on how you view engagement.

For too many brands social media engagement appears to mean trying to encourage lots of one-off interactions, whether it’s a Facebook Like, a share, a retweet or a re-pin. Often, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the content the customer is Liking has any relevance to the brand, it’s simply a numbers game.

Sure, it’s engagement, but with such a low level of personal commitment, could you really argue that you’re developing any kind of customer relationship?

The purpose of social media engagement really needs to look beyond likes towards developing genuine, meaningful conversations with customers that hit them on a personal level. Some brands are achieving this by focusing on meeting actual customer needs - providing social customer service and responding to customer queries - rather than running engagement marketing campaigns.

I hosted a seminar in Amsterdam last week in which a speaker from research company, TNS NIPO, highlighted the three factors that make for successful social customer service:

  1. The speed of response - i.e. within expectations
  2. The quality of the resolution provided
  3. The friendliness and courtesy of the person responding

If you take a disgruntled customer who’s posted negatively online and you successfully resolve their problem, quickly and with great personal care, over time you can double the average Net Promoter Score (NPS) – i.e. the likelihood of that person to recommend you to someone else.

That’s what real engagement is about.

Sadly, there is an abundance of research that shows how poorly most brands are doing this. There are probably many reasons for this, but perhaps the most obvious and ridiculous is that Marketing teams are trying to generate engagement when, for the most part, they would be better handing over to customer service teams to deliver value, generate trust and build genuine relationships with customers.

The other challenge, so far as relationship-building is concerned, is that while some brands are doing good work helping to solve customer problems, most are still not using effective multi-channel CRM processes (or tools) that ensure they maintain a record of their actions. Starting every conversation anew is hardly conducive to building a long-term relationship and is one of the primary gripes of disgruntled customers. As always with social media, the processes and the technology go hand in hand and we’re now seeing social customer service tools like Sentiment, Conversocial and Brand Embassy integrating CRM, whilst traditional contact centre solutions such as Genesys have incorporated social media into the mix.

Thankfully, some forward-thinking companies are taking things a step further.

In a recent webinar, I interviewed Eugenie Gijsberts about her work at Holland’s largest bank, ABN AMRO. Her team is using social media monitoring to reach out to people who have expressed concerns about their personal finances to see if they can offer assistance or advice. This isn’t unique, Citibank are doing something similar in the US, but by pro-actively reaching out to customers, or potential customers, before waiting to be contacted, they are not only building relationships - they are actively starting them.

Some people might call this marketing. Others will call it engagement. I call it good business.

To win at this game, organisations need to adopt social CRM processes and a social business mentality that thinks beyond Marketing and instead addresses the needs of the whole organisation equally. When I find myself bemoaning the rush for mindless engagement, its people like Eugenie Gijsberts and her team who give me hope. So long as there are people who understand the value of relationships and how to create them, engagement will remain the pursuit of fools.

Join speakers from eBay, Sony, EE, Nokia, NowTV and IBM for a discussion on ‘Beyond Engagement’ at Social CRM 2013 London, 8/9 July. MyCustomer readers can claim a 10% discount using the coupon code ‘MYCUSTOMER10’

Replies (1)

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By Ritesh Nayak 0
04th Jul 2013 10:29

Loved this article, and it's not because we are building a product to aid just this type of real time engagement. I believe a true indicator of engagement is the number of people reaching out to your brand and speaking to your brand. If this number is high, that means you as a customer experience executive have managed to successfully present your brand as a human. A major leap when you consider that social networks are primarily for personal interactions. 

The shelf life of information on social networks is very small; may be minutes. In such a short time a brand needs to create and nurture the personal connect, rather than use social networks as just another hoarding to paste your advertisement. 

We, a small team based out of India, are trying to build a product that addresses this problem of conversation management in real time across all contemporary channels on the web. This includes social networks and Email. Our strongest focus is a controlled automation engine that enables engagement execs to deal with customer conversations with scale. Please do check us out:

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