Social Media and Customer Engagement

The Social Feedback Cycle

For a lot of organizations including business, nonprofits, and governmental agencies—use of social media very often begins in Marketing, public communications, or a similar office or department with a direct connection to customers and stakeholders. This makes sense given that a typical driver for getting involved with social media is a slew of negative comments, a need for virality or a boost to overall awareness in the marketplace and especially in the minds and hearts of those customers increasingly out of reach of interruptive traditional media.

In a word, many organizations are looking for engagement and they see social media as the way to get it. The advent of Web 2.0 and the Social Web is clearly a game-changer, on numerous fronts. Given the rush to implement, and the opening focus on marketing specifically versus the business more holistically, many  social media projects end up being treated more like traditional marketing campaigns than the truly revolutionary ways in which a savvy business can now connect with and prosper through collaborative association with its customers. As a result, the very objective engagement, redefined in a larger social context—is missed as too many social media campaigns run their course and then fizzle out.

Open Access to Information

The Social Feedback Cycle is important to understand because it forms the basis of social business. What the social feedback loop really represents is the way in which Internet-based publishing and social technology has connected people around business or business-like activities. This new social connectivity applies between a business and its customers, between other businesses  between customers themselves, as is the case in support communities and similar social applications, and just as well between employees.

As such, this more widespread sharing has exposed information more broadly. Information that previously was available to only a selected or privileged class of individuals is now open to all. Say you wanted information about a hotel or vacation rental property: Unless you were lucky enough to have a friend within your personal social circle with specific knowledge applicable to your planned vacation, you had to consult a travel agent and basically accept whatever it was that you were told.

Otherwise, you faced a mountain of work doing research yourself rather than hoping blindly for a good 6c h a p t e r 1: Social Media and Customer Engagementâ experience in some place you’d never been before. Prior to visible ratings systems—think here—you could “ask around” but that was about it, and around generally meant nearby friends, family and perhaps colleagues

The Logical Extension

Social business follows right on the heels of the wave of interest and activity around social media and its direct application to marketing: Social business is the logical extension of 7  T he Social Feedback C ycle social technology throughout and across the business. Social business takes social concepts—sharing, rating, reviewing, connecting, and collaborating—to all parts of the business.

From Customer Service to product design to the promotions team, social behaviors and the development of internal knowledge communities that connect people and their ideas can give rise to smoother and more efficient business processes. Social business— viewed in this way—becomes more about change management than marketing. That’s a big thought

Social Business Is Holistic

When you combine identity, ease of publishing, and the penchant to publish and to use shared information in purchase-related decision-making processes, the larger role of the Social Feedback Cycle and the practice of social business emerges: Larger than the loop that connects sales with marketing—one of the areas considered as part of traditional Customer Relationship Management (CRM)—the Social Feedback Cycle literally wraps the entire business.

The Social Web and Engagement

This next section provides a conceptual starting point in understanding how the critical activities of engagement and response are enabled through the adoption of social technology and supporting processes. Beware: It’s a different viewpoint than that which applies to “engagement” in traditional media. Engagement is redefined by consumers when acting in an open, participative social environment. This is a very different context than the read-only setting in which traditional media defines engagement so take the time here to understand the four stages of engagement.

Engagement on the Social Web means customers or stakeholders become participants rather than viewers. It’s the difference between seeing a movie and participating in a screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The difference is participation. Engagement, in a social business sense, means your customers are willing to take their time and energy and talk to you as well as about you in conversation and through processes that impact your business. They are willing to participate, and it is this participation that defines engagement in the context of the Social Web

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