LEADING THOUGHTS Gasp! Isn’t social media “the tidal wave crashing over us” or the “biggest revolution since the Industrial Revolution? Well yes, of course it is! Social technologies give the consumer a voice and relevant tools to connect and talk to “people like me”. As a result, companies feel akin to being under a microscope, and now (fortunately) service and customer experience are making a comeback. At the same time, social media is not new, because the underlying behaviors have always been a part of our personal and professional lives. Humans are inherently social, and social media simply allows us to do the things we were born to do, while doing them bigger, faster and better. Let’s deconstruct this for a bit:
Behavior#1: Meet like-minded individuals: People are social creatures; we even have a saying “Birds of a feather stick together.” The Edelman trust barometer even highlights “people like me” as a top source of trust. So it’s only natural that we tend to gravitate towards people just like us, and social platforms only make it easier and faster to connect. Let’s examine what it looked like before and after social media.
- Then: We met like-minded individuals and professional contacts via conferences, trade associations and through friends (who are also like minded).
- Now: In addition to meeting in person, we can meet whomever we want with no regard to geographies, time zones or even languages (Google Translate, anyone?). All we have to do is track a hashtag, join a tweetchat, join a Facebook page / LinkedIn group, or join a Meetup.
Behavior #2:The in-person magic: This may seem contrarian: why in the world would you get online to meet offline? Humans are social creatures, and we yearn to connect. I’ve met so many amazing people via social networks through the years, and each time we can meet face to face (F2F), we make it a point to meet. Tools like Meetup allow you to congregate around shared interests locally, and Foursquare and Twitter encourage “planned serendipity”.
- Then: Many first-time in person meetings were much “colder” since you didn’t have a chance to connect anywhere else, and you spent time upfront on small-talk.
- Now: It’s much easier to get the ball rolling and really get to the “meat” of the conversation, because you already got to know each other.
Behavior #3: Nurturing your network: While meeting in person accelerates the depth of the digitally established connection, social media keeps the fire burning. In between those conferences, add folks you like to your social networks, keep up with their professional and personal happenings, and engage in conversations.
- Then: You would have to call, visit and email to keep in touch.
- Now: You can simply follow the social feed and know what’s going on. If you are able to connect the social stream to other profile data, tasks, messages and events, you can get a well-rounded view of this person. That’s exactly the solution we are working on at Nimble!
Behavior #4: Learn from experts and solicit opinions: Social media gives us unprecedented access to all the information that we ever wanted. Democratization of publishing has allowed many people to find a voice. Even though you have to proactively separate signal from noise (which is also part of the Nimble vision), there are so many amazing minds that you can learn from, once you know where to find them.
- Then: More often than not, you could only trust a few reputable sources, and more often than not, they cost money.
- Now: There’s a lot more information available, and some of it is free. Social web gives you a variety of opinion, but you just have to learn how to separate the wheat from the chaffe.
Behavior #5: Intimacy in customer relations: For larger organizations, the fragmentation of customer data becomes a big problem; as the size and complexity increases, customer-centricity disappears. For SMBs, intimacy is easier, but small businesses are typically strapped for time. Social tools have the potential to shrink the distance between the business and the customer.
- Then: As a business, you had to provide expensive 800 numbers and answer countless support emails and there was a chance that your customer records were useless to another department.
- Now: In addition to traditional support, you should listen & respond in the social channels. Now companies of all sizes can practice the “mom and pop” intimacy.
Behavior #6: Provide consistent experience across many customer touchpoints: These days, you are interacting with your customers at all stages of the research, purchase and post-purchase process. Creating an unforgettably excellent customer experience now includes touchpoints by employees from various functional departments.
- Then: Only customer service and sales professionals interacted with the client, and silos were designed to keep them away from management and other job functions.
- Now: Social employees are touching customers at every step; because all of your employees are able to become a touchpoint for your customers, internal alignment and air-tight collaboration / information sharing are paramount. If more than one person talks to a customer, you absolutely can not afford to give disparate and conflicting information.
Behavior #7: Crowdsource and collaborate: Businesses have always wanted to know how their customers feel about them and their competitors. They also wanted to know what existing and potential (and even past) customers wanted in their products.
- Then: Large companies have painstakingly built market research departments, analyzing mountains of structured and unstructured data. Small companies sometimes didn’t do anything structured. Market research was expensive and took a long time. By the time the insights were extracted and became part of a strategy, they could have become stale.
- Now: With the tremendous amount of chatter in social media, you can understand and capture what people are saying by simply listening, without having to ask. In addition, you can also cleverly crowdsource and co-create by directly asking targeted groups of users and influencers.
So as you can see, social media is nothing new. It simply empowers and enables us to do what we’ve been doing all along, helping us build stronger relationships and create intimacy with our customers. At the same time, don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you met someone (in person or digitally), gives you the right to sell them something. You have to earn it; become helpful first, and then you won’t even have to ask for a sale. We’ll cover some ways in which you can become helpful in a future post.
What are some behaviors that social media helps you with? The comments are yours!
Photo source: thinkpanama