Ask anyone who works in Social what is different from traditional marketing, and they’ll inevitably tell you that they want deeper, richer engagement with their customers.
But even a cursory look will tell you that many companies are simply taking traditional advertising, lightly adapted, and placing it in Social channels. Sometimes it’s entertaining, engaging and interesting. But even then it is often quite similar to traditional marketing.
So we decided to look at Social through the lense of our clients’ businesses. Our research aimed to answer a simple question. Do visible Social programmes undertake the fundamental Customer Engagement activities that drive sales, loyalty and advocacy?
What a good Social programme looks like, when looked at through a business lense, should differ dramatically by category. A business software provider, with highly engaged customers who only buy every 5 – 10 years, needs a very different plan from a soft drinks company.
We created the Social Value Benchmark to allow us to assess companies’ Social activities against their direct competitors based on public information.
Assessed on 4,087 data points for 27 companies across five categories, this research had some surprising findings:
1. Social is most actively used in the early stages of customer journeys with a score of 51% at awareness falling to 21% at the point of purchase. As we suspected, Social is still implicitly seen as a broadcast medium in most cases.
2. Companies have significant room for improvement, with an average score of 31% across the customer journey. In other words companies are broadly only participating in one third of appropriate activities for their category.
3. Many companies are reluctant to leave the Social ‘safe zone’ and engage with customers outside their owned social channels. Unless a company has had a very successful programme of engaging its customers, the vast majority of them are likely to be found outside its owned channels, so this both misses significant opportunities to increase reach and fails to be customer centric.
4. Channel disconnect is a common phenomenon, with a colder, more broadcast, tone by companies on their websites than in Social. Often companies have excellent testimonials or reviews from their customers in Social channels, but do not use these outside Social channels.
5. Social loyalty and advocacy are particularly neglected with average scores of 20% and 17% respectively. Many organisations simply don’t have any plan to engage their customers in Social after purchase.
The implications for digital marketers are that:
Marketers must start every Social strategy from their business strategy, rather than Social channels. ‘What can we do on Facebook?’ is essentially a meaningless question compared to questions like ‘How do we use Social to drive advocacy from satisfied customers?’ or ‘Which parts of our customer journey are our customers active in Social?’
Analytics need to focus more on stages of the customer journey, and less on metrics that the Social networks provide. While we may not always be able to measure whether somebody who gets customer service through Social then goes on to buy our product again, we can measure if they were satisfied, subsequent churn and other behaviours.
Content needs to be optimised to a purpose such as lead generation, or improved relationships with individual customer segments, rather than Social platform metrics like ReTweets.
Social should be integrated with CRM programmes – rather than having two separate streams of activity. Very few organisations currently use Social to cement loyalty – even through activities can be as simple as having a separate Twitter feed or LinkedIn group that only customers can join.
While most companies examined have good levels of customer satisfaction, and many use NPS as a business metric, very few are prompting their customers to advocacy or operating a formal advocacy programme. Our previous research on Global Passion Brands showed that there is often a huge disconnect between latent customer satisfaction and active advocacy. As millions of product reviews show people are willing to advocate for brands, but they need to be asked. More than anything they need to be given a good reason to put their personal reputation behind your brand – such as helping one of your employees who has given them a good service.
The full research can be found below: