Social Media, Unsung Hero of Business to Consumer (B2C) Communications

Orla van der Zaan
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On: 20 Oct 2016
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Social Media, Unsung Hero of Business to Consumer (B2C) Communications

Consumers increasingly expect fast, personal interaction with the businesses they buy from, and social media is a preferred route. We look at the risks and rewards of social media as a communications channel for small-medium business.

Technology changes consumer expectations. Those who were perfectly content to call you a decade ago or to wait 24 hours for an email response, now expect to be able to choose from various methods of digital communication that are instant or near-instant. So how can a small-medium business plan their communications to keep customers happy without blowing the budget or creating new headaches for employees? You may be surprised to learn just how good a fit social media can be for this very issue.

Most businesses have already integrated social media into their marketing strategy, but there is a growing trend to take it to the next level and use it for customer relationship management (CRM). According to Gartner, by 2020, 90% of companies will be using social media for customer service*.

Resources, Rewards and Risks

If social media is the future of customer service, do you have the resources and budget to give your customers what they want? Can you afford not to?

The good news is that a social media CRM strategy won’t blow your budget. In fact there are a number of free tools such as TweetDeck and HootSuite that will help. Plus, utilising social media can actually save you money. HP reports* that its social media support agents can handle up to 40% more customers per day than their phone agents, and handling a Facebook or Twitter interaction is three times quicker than chat and twice as fast as phone support.

As demand for brand interaction on social media grows, there is a huge opportunity to use the platform for strengthening your brand image. For example, do you remember this exchange on Twitter between @BadManBugti and @ArgosHelpers?

“@BadManBugti: YO wen u gettin da ps4 tings in moss side? Ain’t waitin no more. Plus da asian guy whu works dere got bare attitude”

“@ArgosHelpers: Safe badman, we gettin sum more PS4 tings in wivin da next week y’get me. Soz bout da attitude, probz avin a bad day yo.”

“@BadManBugti: respect. Sick guy”

The tweets went viral and even hit the mainstream media, turning one customer’s negative experience into a major positive for the brand and its image.

On the other hand, there are also risks. When a Tesco customer tweeted an image of a “Best Before” label on a packet of in-store bakery biscuits that was over two weeks out of date, that too went viral, attracting extensive negative comments and other anecdotal examples of out-of-date Tesco foods. A more creative initial response than simply “I’m really sorry about that, can you tell me which store this was in please?” might have closed down the whole incident far sooner and been more effective in terms of damage limitation.

What to Say and How to Say It

Your communications on social media should reflect your brand personality. There is a balance that can be achieved in how you say things, which is in line with your brand tone of voice, stays within the boundaries of respect and good behaviour, but also leaves room for a little light-heartedness and sense of humour.

You can lay down guidelines for your social media communicators, but they need to be allowed to think on their feet and use their initiative too. The best viral social media successes are a result of an off-the-cuff response or a timely reaction. An over-strict process can stultify your online brand persona.

At Three, social media operators are given a glossary of words they should never use and words they should use as much as possible to maintain our brand persona. Our tone of voice is warm, slightly tongue-in-cheek and edgy. We also frequently use images and gifs, which respectively achieve a 23% and 43% uplift in the engagement rate. Three is one of the few businesses to make use of emoji when engaging with customers, and they prove highly effective not only in establishing the brand tone of voice but also in helping us keep within Twitter’s 140-character count.

However much you feel you have to say, the key on Twitter is to keep it short, sharp and succinct. Nothing says you’re not at home in the medium quite like spilling over into several consecutive tweets.

 

Find the right person or people, give them a clear strategy to work with, and you will soon find that social media is an efficient and powerful tool for serving your customers while growing your brand.

*Source: SalesForce