Within the customer engagement field, “social media” has become a sort of catchphrase for the latest, shiniest voice of customer program technology. Every day seems to bring the publication of a slew of press releases announcing the latest social media feedback management gadget. These tools promise to integrate tweets, Facebook posts, comments, and every other bit of social media data with a company’s customer feedback program.
In the ideal company everything would be integrated to perfection. Unfortunately, business leaders work in a real world where everything must be prioritized. We recently wrote an article explaining the importance of designing a customer experience strategy that aligns with the overall business strategy. The same rules apply for social media. To effectively use social media, it must be considered as a part of the big picture. The following are a few considerations for leaders evaluating how social media fits into their Voice of the Customer software and into the grand overarching strategy of their business.
1. News travels fast on social media.
This might be the biggest understatement of the year, but it is important to note this up front. Social media tools are like magnets for anyone interested in the customer experience because it has changed the way that many of us receive news and interact with companies. Pew Internet Research has found that, on average, each American has 634 ties in their overall network.
News travels fast when people are instantly connected via their ever-present Smartphones, iPads, and other internet-faring gadgets. With Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn just a few clicks away at any time, customers understand that they have the power to quickly share their experience with others. Certain extremely Internet-savvy consumers (the “Technorati”) are exceptionally skilled at quickly spreading (usually negative) feedback. These social media kings and queens know how to amp up the volume and expand their reach. Furthermore, the press is extremely tuned into social media. This provides another level of amplification for whatever is trending online. Because of this, having a social media presence is valuable regardless of industry.
2. Social media may not accurately represent your core customer base.
Twitter and Facebook are excellent outlets for “squeaky wheels”—the loudest, angriest, or most popular consumers. It is easy for company leaders to become distracted by these kinds of social media users, which are not to be confused with your best customers. (Indeed, depending on your industry, your best customers may not even have a Twitter or Facebook account.) Moreover, social media collectors often provide too much information for company leaders to use effectively.
As customer experience guru Bruce Temkin explained in a recent blog post, a common customer experience management mistake is to assume that more data is always better. Another is to completely focus on one measurement while neglecting to see the big picture. Temkin calls this mistake “Falling in love with a metric.” If your firm falls in love with social media trends, it is likely to follow tweets and Facebook posts without really understanding the entire customer experience picture.
3. Know your size and industry.
While huge business-to-consumer companies can see benefits from tracking global brand trends in social media outlets, social media trackers are less useful for smaller business-to-business firms, simply because niche B2B firms are less likely to be discussed on social media platforms. (From a market research perspective, social media cannot provide a large enough respondent pool to provide accurate surveying results.)
If your goal is to systematically improve the customer experience and boost customer engagement, it is best to continue asking for customer feedback, rather than focusing on social media aggregation. While a review of recent social media comments on your brand may provide a sort of temporary scatter chart, an effective Voice of Customer program will provide a much clearer line graph, showing the overall trend for loyal, engaged customers.
We’re huge fans of feedback and have been collecting it from customers and employees alike for over a decade. We also use social media to connect with people, share ideas, and listen in on what our industry is talking about (Say, “hi” @peoplemetrics). While social media is important, fun, and interesting – it will never replace consistent feedback, systematic follow-up, and a solid business strategy.
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