Brands + Consumers + Social Media: What’s Now, What’s Next

Social networks have weaved themselves into our day-to-day lives over the past decade, and with this increase in usage comes new expectations we have for the brands we encounter and interact with over Twitter, Facebook, and other networks. CMO Council’s “Variance in the Social Brand Experience” report outlines many key points of data that help shed light on the growth of social media integration by many of the biggest consumer brands, but it also highlights areas that are in much need for improvement.

Social Currency

A big surprise was the current disconnect between what today's marketer thinks the digital consumer wants from a brand and what the digital consumer actually expects from a brand when it chooses to engage online. A majority of marketers believe quality consumer content is merely an organic occurrence that cannot be forced or influenced; however, two-thirds of customers expect to be eligible for some kind of exclusive offer when they engage with brands online, and nearly the same amount expect to gain access to games or contests provided by brands. These savings and deals gained from social interaction, known as social currency, translate to increased loyalty and revenue.

Brands like Wendy’s understand the power of this, as one of their own Tweets - pledging that Wendy’s would donate 50 cents to charity per Retweet - was the most Retweeted Tweet of 2011. According to Twitter, it surpassed the likes of Beyonce, Ashton Kutcher, and even Charlie Sheen. Examples like this show the power of social currency - driving massive amounts of customer interaction while simultaneously promoting the brand.

Social Customer Service

An Xbox 360 user Tweets, “Red Ring of Death? Not good,” without hashtags or usernames included.

Within hours, @XboxSupport replies, “Hi there, I saw your tweet about the Xbox 360 console. What’s going on?”

This proactive response to a product issue is what sets Xbox Support apart from most other brands, and it highlights what customers are going to expect within the next year from customer service. Even today, according to the CMO Council report, 22% of customers expect any questions they submit over social networks to be answered almost immediately, and only 12% are willing to wait longer than 24 hours. However, only 4% of marketers are utilizing the immediacy of Twitter or Facebook to promptly respond to any issues their customers are facing. If brands hope to engage and connect with users in the coming year, this is one area where adoption is key to success.

Xbox not only shows how to tackle what I refer to as social customer service, but they exemplify how every brand should proactively search for and engage with customers who are having issues. @XboxSupport has a dedicated team of 18 Twitter support users (dubbed the “Elite Tweet Fleet”), whom all use the Xbox Support account to quickly reply to any questions directed at them and also search Tweets for terms relating to Xbox problems (“Red Ring of Death”, “Live Dashboard”, etc.), and replies to those as well.

Now I’m not trying to tell you that every brand needs its own “Tweet Fleet”, but customers are demanding resolutions faster than ever before, and utilizing social networks to provide quicker results will only benefit brands and strengthen their bond with customers.

What It All Means

Interacting and engaging with customers through social media is a brand new side of marketing, still in its infancy, and marketers are experiencing the growing pains of adjusting to this relatively new way of promoting their brands. The findings by the CMO Council will help empower these marketers in the upcoming year to pinpoint and utilize ways to engage customers better on social networking sites, while simultaneously promoting brands and building loyalty among users. It is clear now that there are effective and ineffective ways to connect with customers, and finding that right way to communicate with them will only help your brand today and tomorrow.

Photo by: Emerson Walter

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