Companies are faced with new opportunities and threats, as the number of channels to connect with customers increase. Virtually all companies, big and small, have acknowledge social media’s presence, and firms who do not have a blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account now find themselves in the scarce minority. However, the more active the firm is across all of these channels, the more exposed the brand is to its customers. A firm’s brand must be able to weather and effectively respond to feedback, both positive and negative.  The personal nature of social media also benefits companies who offer a transparent perspective, revealing all of the quirks and flaws that make their organization special. In a recent study completed by social media consultants Wetpaint/Altimeter, they found that the most valuable brands in the world are experiencing a direct correlation between top financial performance and deep social media engagement. The relationship was found to be apparent and significant: socially engaged companies are in fact more financially successful.

Overview:

So what exactly does “deep social media engagement” mean? This level of engagement does not mean merely having a presence. Deep social media engagement means representing the company through real person exchange, and interacting with others by initiating conversations, and responding to questions and concerns presented by the community.

Empower People Throughout the Organization:

Social media engagement is really all about communication. The channels of communication do not have to only be focused externally; a huge amount of insights can come from within your organization. By empowering people within your company walls to provide their thoughts and ideas on the company, you increase employee loyalty and engender team work as everyone has an impact on the direction of the company and its opportunity to achieve success. Starbucks, ranked number one by Business Week magazine’s “Most Engaged Brands” list, first did this by launching MyStarbucksIdea.com. Starbucks set out to create a forum where employees could submit, comment on, and vote for their favorite ideas.

Approach the Varying Social Media Channels Differently

A corporate blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are all considered forms of social media. However, each of those different communication channels requires a unique  approach. It is important to develop individual strategies and engagement plans for each of the social media tools you plan to use. Using one blanket style or strategy across all networks will surely lead to failure and/or the under-utilization of each channel’s strength. For example, the types of communication you might have on Facebook may be more engaged and two-way. Contrast to that, your strategy on Twitter may be to only more one-way communication, such as breaking news, contests, or promotional messages. Choose the medium carefully and advocate strongly  to acquire the resources and support that will be needed for success.

Understand the Risks

By engaging social media, you automatically expose yourself to a more direct and personal level with your customers. If the company is struggling with customer service issues or quality control, this news can spread like wildfire across the internet, potentially bringing a lot of attention to issues that the company might of otherwise been able to keep quiet. Of course there is a flip-side to that. When the customers love a brand, they will be champions of that message, improving a firms brand image and respect. In addition, social media can provide a firm with an effective channel in which to respond to any and all issues that come up.

Be in it for the Long Haul

The key to successful engagement is to commit to a relationship with customers in new channels and convince them that the company will be there for them in the future. Toyota’s Online Community Manager explains, “If you are going to engage, you have to have a plan and make sure that resources are available. Because you can’t gracefully exit – once you’re in, you’re in. The days of walking away from a campaign are over – once we engage, we have to commit to it.”

Support Engagement as an Extension of Company Culture

One of the newest channels SAP is using is Twitter.com/saplistens, a channel where SAP invites consumers to “Talk with us. We want to learn.” Business leaders at SAP are emphasizing the importance of an open corporate culture, one that listens to its customers, just as it listens to its employees.

Additional Resources:

Brands in Public, a new product developed by Squidoo, that provides an interface for brands to aggregate and organizes a hot list of what’s being said about the brand around the web, via Twitter and blogs and YouTube and Google Trends and more.

Huddle.net, combines award-winning online collaboration, live conferencing, project management software and document sharing, to help manage communication within your organization and with your customers.

Other Posts from the “New Way to Work” series:

The Future of Document Management Software

Rishi Chowdhury

Customer Acquisitions Executive


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