What started as a simple way of communication between group members, social media has evolved into a global phenomenon and has totally changed the way we communicate, collaborate and do businesses. Social media has changed every aspect of a business. Like any other development, there are many advantages and disadvantages associated with this transformation.
Over the last ten years or so, popularity of social media has increased and the increasing use of mobile phones has resulted in accumulation of huge amount of User Generated Contents (UGC). Customers now-a-days share a huge amount of information over the social media channels using mobile devices, that information may be used by businesses in a way which could result in understanding them better, creating business intelligence and hence improving business design and getting competitive advantage. Getting and implementing real-time feedback from customers and co-creating or even crowd-sourcing can increase the satisfaction loyalty of the customers while giving many new product or service ideas to innovate. Incentivizing the customers materialistically by giving social-media-only coupons and running contests can bring further good. These loyal customers work like free sales and marketing teams while creating huge amount of positive contents. Positive contents regarding brands increase visibility of the business over search engines and hence help with brand awareness, reputation management and in even positive Word of Mouth ( WOM), at a speed like never before.
One of the biggest advantages of social media is the huge amount of customer data available on these channels which businesses can use to get deeper insight into customers to serve them better in more personalized and cost-effective manner. Getting real-time feedback from customers and co-creating or even crowdsourcing intelligently can further increase the loyalty of the customers while giving many new product or service ideas and more leads to the businesses to acquire new customers. These loyal customers can work like free sales and marketing teams while creating huge amount of positive contents. Positive contents regarding brands increase visibility of the business over search engines and hence help with reputation management and in positive WOM. On the other hand, ignoring customer feedback, not empowering them or lacking transparency may result into negative WOM and cause irreparable permanent loss to reputation. Businesses should have crisis management programs in place to deal with such an unwanted situation. They should reach out unhappy customers and resolve complaints before those are intensified. Businesses should not try to sell over Social Media as customer hate ‘push marketing’ rather they should be transparent, sincere and authentic. They should even seriously consider hiring dedicated staff to enhance customer experience..
There are more threats for the poorly-run businesses or the ones which are not willing to give the desired control to the customer and listen to them due to fear of negative WOM. Joining Social Media is not optional, because even if businesses are not there on social media channels, they will still be being discussed by customers. Hence, not joining Social Media is actually the biggest threat. Businesses can reduce these threats by thinking long term along with proper training and education while using common sense.
Businesses also need to be transparent in order to get real benefits from the social media. However, there is a difference between stupidity and transparency. Therefore, businesses should keep in mind the regularity requirements and use common sense. It is also important to promise only what businesses can actually deliver. Building trust results in set up influence, which is priceless and a real key to success on Social Media.
Now, it is impossible to bury poor quality, have unhappy customers and uncompetitive products or prices. Customer experience impacts both brand perception and customer satisfaction. Customers over Social Media have no loyalty when customer service is poor and they express their anger publically.
It should be kept in mind that by simply joining these channels cannot solve all problems. Therefore businesses need to avoid over-hype regarding the Social Media. They need to change their mind-set and really engage and collaborate with their customers with clear strategy and goals. Setting right strategies and goals, taking small steps, allocating suitable budget and resources, improving internal communication along with setting and measuring right metrics can remove these threats to great extent. One cannot deny the importance of active listening, efficient monitoring and measuring and responding quickly in reducing the threats. Businesses should not be hesitant to ask customers directly for their feedback regarding how efficiently businesses are engaging with them over social media. Understanding the benefits and threats associated with this media will help business to improve their business design, serve their customers better and in return make progress. This will also better prepare businesses for social customer relationships and ultimately set the base of ‘social businesses’ which is just around the corner!
This article is written by renowned SEO and Social Media expert, Abdul H. Mansoor.
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