Marketing and PR
This is the obvious category, of course, since these are the folks responsible for crafting, managing, and communicating the company’s messaging to customers and prospects. It’s often (but not always) the “home” for social media in a company. Here, social media can:
- Help you understand if your customers are online, and if they are, what sites and tools they use most.
- Provide insights into your own company culture and highlight your business’ comfort level with social media tools.
- Give the company a human face through online discourse, highlighting the people behind the brand and the hearts and minds that drive it.
- Let you hear how your community – instead of the company – defines the brand. Messaging in their language is more likely to stick.
- Give you human insight into market dynamics, instead of relying on only structured reports or surveys. Take the “pulse” of your community, from their perspective.
- Hear how your competitors are perceived online, too, to identify additional ways to differentiate your brand from theirs.
Sales and Business Development
In sales, finding and solving problems is the key to success, and good listening skills are essential. In the world of social media, business development pros can:
- Locate prospects that might be self-identifying elsewhere on the web without making themselves readily apparent to the business.
- Listen to the words your customers use to describe you, for better or worse. They might write your sales pitch for you.
- Maintain relationships with customers before and after the sale by continuing to connect with them online.
- Again, competitive analysis and insights about how and where your competitors are reaching the prospects that you might be looking for.
- Identify trends and niche markets that you might not yet be tapping.
- Hear how your prospects and clients are articulating their needs and pain points so your future presentations and proposals can address them directly.
- Open more channels for communication – different tools and sites – and provide opportunities for dialogue that are more comfortable for customers.
Customer service can be a never-ending, demanding job but it’s absolutely a make-or-break piece of any business. So, how can customer and client service pros tap into social media?
- Identify product or service issues that are being talked about online first. Believe it or not, some people don’t come straight to the company with their issues.
- Say thank you to clients and customers in their own space.
- Solve minor issues on the spot (even in other peoples’ online territory, like their website or a community forum) and demonstrate that you’re listening. Be the conduit back to the company to resolve more complex issues, faster.
- Build trust by developing and maintaining relationships with customers during a critical time – in between sales.
- Serve as the outward-facing voice of the company to build its’ community and provide a direct line of communication back to you.
- Actively ask for feedback from your customers about their recent experiences with you, and what would have made it better. Doing it live and online turns it into a living, breathing dialogue instead of just another static survey.
Even though product or brand managers aren’t always directly customer facing, social media can still play a key intelligence role. By listening, your product and brand teams can:
- Identify quality issues in competitor’s products for a leg up in product improvements.
- Hear customer’s “wish lists” that they’re posting on the web for products you may not have, or enhancements to the ones you do.
- Work with customer support teams to develop comprehensive responses to product or service issues in real-time.
- Help develop a useful FAQ for customers and clients based on common issues communicated on the web. Instead of relying on third party forums, make your company site the destination for information.
- Gather anecdotal evidence of innovative ways that customers might be using your products (that could be very different than what you intended!). Great example: Ikea Hacker.
- Create product tutorials that directly address the feedback and issues you might hear from users online. (Best part: go where they are and introduce them directly.)
I didn’t break out executive ranks above because I’m thinking there’s an executive role in every category (?). But as several people pointed out to me, executive buy in is critical. Otherwise, the big gold mine of information gathered via social media won’t be worth a fig. Somewhere, someone has to do something with the insights and use them to move forward.
Seems as though that might be the biggest challenge of all: what to do when you know the information is valuable but there are disconnects? Executives might delegate without being invested in the results. Managers might not be empowered to act. Production folks might not have all the information they need to understand why that information is important in the first place. Perhaps another post for another time. I’d love your thoughts on this one!
Thanks to Geoff Livingston, Frank Martin, Gianandrea Facchini and Sonny Gill and all of my fantastic fellow marketing/social media mavens for their great input on this post! You all teach and inspire me daily.
What do you think, folks? Help me round out the list with your ideas, and let’s share these with our colleagues, clients, teams.
cool image by Ralph Bijker