A recent survey conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services showed that 1800+ companies were either currently using social media or have plans to do so. Calling a CRM representative with complaints or queries is a thing of the past; most people these days simply use social media platforms to make themselves heard. This makes it critical for companies that care about their brand image to set up their own 'Social Media Command Centers' or 'Centers of Excellence'. Setting up a command center is all about going beyond social media monitoring and taking control of customer experience.
Here are some of the key steps to building a strong foundation of your own Command Center:
1. Set Your Goals:
Setting up a command center requires investment, both in terms of infrastructure as well as time. Therefore, to be able to justify that investment, you need to establish your goals. These ROI or effectiveness parameters will be unique to your company and your brands. It is important to start with modest and measurable goals, across the broad areas of Brand Awareness, Customer Service and Sales.
- Brand Awareness:
Generating awareness is also about relationships, not only marketing pitches. For example, you can measure brand awareness by measuring:
- How much buzz was generated about your brand, across which channels?
- What is the overall sentiment of brand conversations?
- How many people "like" your company or your brand on Facebook?
- How many people follow your company or brand on Twitter?
- How many of those people retweet your conversations and what is their reach/influence?
- Post campaigns, how many people subscribed to newsletters/RSS feeds?
Your goals could be closely linked to these measurement criteria: increase brand buzz by 20%, bring down negative sentiment to less than 5%, increase number of followers and fans by 30% and so on.
- Customer Service:
Engaging with customers and being transparent in your communication plays a pivotal role if your organization's goal is to offer excellent customer service vis social media. Your goals for customer service via social media could be based on the following metrics:
- Number of "Actionable" social media conversations tracked across Twitter, Facebook, video sites, blogs and comments.
- Number of customer complaints on social media that have been responded to by your customer service representatives.
- Number of customer complaints on social media that have been resolved either online or by followups offline.
- Average time to respond to a customer service issue.
- Sales and Lead Generation:
Identifying prospective customers by listening to conversations for intent to buy, communicating with prospects and establishing relationships is the key to using social media for sales. A recent survey conducted by Practical eCommerce showed that approximately 77% of respondents received less than 5% of their sales directly or indirectly from social media. It was revealed that over half the marketers who invested 11 or more hours a week on social marketing reported increased sales. Additionally, many marketers have agreed that their social media efforts too have helped them generate leads. Your measurement goals could be based on
- Number of "Intent to buy" conversations identified on all social media channels.
- Number of sales conversations started.
- Number of hot, warm and lukewarm leads generated.
Every company has a unique target audience of prospects, customers and stakeholders. The better you know the people talking about your company and brands, the easier it will be to tailor your marketing messages to them. In order to build a community around your brand, determining your target audience becomes vital and requires some homework to be done before the organizations' command center actually attempts to connect with them.
- What is the age group my organization is targeting?
- Where are my customers and prospects geographically located?
- Which gender talks about my company or brands the most? Is that what we are targeting?
Getting a clear understanding of who you want to reach will help you understand the best strategy to take when it comes down to connecting with customers. Generating awareness and sales, or offering first-rate customer service cannot be possible if your company does not make an attempt to know its customers.
3. Employee Training:
A smart employee knows how to listen and respond on behalf of your brand. Having an organized and well trained staff is the best way to route specific queries to their respective departments. This way, social media fiascos can be responded to quickly and large volumes of brand conversations can be easily managed. Here are some of do's and don'ts to be kept in mind while assembling a social media team:
- Look internally first: No one knows a company better than its employees and they can become the strongest brand ambassadors. A great approach to staffing and training your social media analysts / social media customer service representatives is to train existing brand evangelists to listen and engage on behalf of your company or brand.
- Make it tangible: Having certification programs in place will guarantee a well trained staff. For instance, Intel's Digital IQ training program offers online training for employees along with a certification program. Dell also has its social media training and certification program for the company's employees.
- Set clear policies and guidelines for engagement: Tone, responsiveness and focus on protecting brand image is vital when engaging with customers and prospects on social media. A trained team will have an idea on how to handle unpleasant situations, have an escalation plan, and can decide what type of comments require immediate responses. The best way to avoid a social media PR meltdown will be to plan for the worst and expect the best.
Keep in mind, simply routing queries to respective departments and considering the job to be done is not the solution. The command center needs to track outcomes as well.
For companies, this is about avoiding potential social media disasters. For customers, the convenience over traditional support centers comes from the fact that their queries are dealt with in real time; moreover, this set up ensures that the companies can reach out to customers instead of waiting for an issue to arise and for them to call. Posting self-help videos on YouTube, help request forms on Facebook and monitoring Twitter conversations shows that companies are aware of the power of social media and want to protect their online reputation. However, it finally boils down to defining objectives. What is it that you wish to achieve with such a set-up; who are your customers; how should employees be trained? The efforts to connect with customers over social media will prove to be the best investment organizations can take today. While a command center will not make the traditional CRM centers obsolete, the impact of customers' voice on social media platforms has the power to either make or break a brand.