Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Social Media and Engagement, with Brian Solis: Part 2

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 21, 2008

 This is Part 2 of the guest post by the generous and smart Brian SolisPart 1 covered conversations and the use of social media.  In today’s post, Brian helps us take the appropriate steps to really begin listening, then engaging with customers via social media.  Again, many thanks to Brian for sharing his time and talent with my readers.  Brian, you rock!

Social Media Empowers Customer Service to Build Relationships, Part 2

Sociology provides us with an understanding of how human interaction and the ensuing ecosystem shape individual attitudes and behavior. Sociologists study society and social action by examining the groups and social institutions people form. In Social Media, these communities take the form of social networks and the communal groups within them. People establish associations, friendships, and allegiances around content, objects, products, services, and ideas. How they communicate is simply subject to the tools and networks that people adopt based on the influence of their social graph.

Observation, monitoring and listening tells us everything. We’ll learn where the relevant conversations are taking place, who’s participating, what they’re saying and the tone of the discussions, the specific information they’re looking for, impressions and conceptions, as well as revealing the patterns of behavior within specific communities.

The million dollar question that every business executive needs answered is who’s responsible for managing these conversations and how much time and money will it take?
In order to determine the amount of resources, time and money that are required, It all starts with good old fashioned research along with the new tools to help you get to the answers you seek (see below for a list to help you get started). 

First..

- Identify who your customers are and where they go for information.

- Search for key words: Products & Company as well as competitors and their products and services.

- And, please don’t forget the relationships that exist in the real world. They’re also indispensable for providing feedback and insight now and in the future.

Based on the research results, you can measure the average frequency of relevant conversations, identify the more active hubs and communities, and the context of the conversations in order to determine time and variety of resources required (a community manager is required at the very least.) 

Here’s a formula that I developed based on participation averages over the last couple of years: 

The number of average relevant conversations per day per community.

Multiplied by the quantity of relevant communities.

Multiplied by 20 (minutes required to research and respond and also monitor for additional responses), variable +/- dependent on the case, usually +.

Divided by 60 (minutes)

Equals the amount of time required and in turn, the resources and associated costs required depending on internal labor or external consulting fees. 

Based on the research results, you can measure the average frequency of relevant conversations, identify the more active hubs and communities and the context of the conversations in order to determine time and resources required.

Throughout the research process, you’ll undoubtedly see that relevant conversations occur across disparate networks, are representative of a sweeping variety of related topics that require varying responses, and, that they usually map  to specific departments within your organization (those most qualified to respond), i.e. marcom, product management, customer service, PR, executive management, etc. Having someone keeping a pulse on relevant conversations and in turn feeding them, intelligently, to the right people internally and guiding them on the required response and follow-up makes the interaction more meaningful and helpful and also distributes the responsibility across existing resources. 

Here are some places to start listening (note, these tools are recommended for listening, even though many of them are also used for publishing and sharing content):

Social Bookmarks

  • Ma.gnolia
  • Delicious
  • Diigo
  • StumbleUpon

Crowdsourced Content

  • Digg
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • Mixx 

Conversations

  • Google Alerts
  • Blogpulse
  • Radian6 (paid)
  • BuzzLogic (paid)
  • Ask.com
  • Google Blog Search 

Blog Communities

  • Blogged.com
  • MyBlogLog
  • BlogCatalog 

Micromedia

FriendFeed

Pownce

Tumblr 

Specific to Twitter search:

Tweetscan

Summize

Twemes

TwitterLocal 

Social Networks

MySpace

Bebo

Ning

Facebook

LinkedIn 

Customers Service Networks

YahooGroups

GoogleGroups

GetSatisfaction 

Content

Video

YouTube

Metacafe 

Pictures

Flickr

Documents

ThinkFree Docs

Scribd

Docstoc

Once you’ve conducted the initial waves of research, identified the volume, location and frequency of relevant conversations, and estimated the required resources, you can effectively create an accurate blueprint for engagement. I call this a social map.

The next steps are dictated by the sociological work we’ve done, which reveals the culture within each respective network and how we should participate. Generally, each conversations should be treated as if you were approaching someone in real life whom you greatly respect.

- Start by participating as a person, not as a marketer.

- Talk like a person, not as a sales person or message factory.

- Be helpful and bring value to the conversation.

- Please remember, that during this entire process, you’re contributing to the personality and the perception of the brand you represent.

At the end of the day, we’re all people and thus we should approach conversations as such. It may seem like common sense, but as classically trained marketers, we tend to approach these things with our marketing hat on. It’s the difference between authentic conversations and one-sided talking “at” people we may be used to.

Most importantly, the lessons learned in the field should in turn be fed into the marketing department to create and run more intelligent, experienced, and real world initiatives across all forms of marketing, PR, sales, and advertising. 

In a social world, conversations will take place with or without us and the price we pay for missing them is potentially equivalent to the loss of brand equity and resonance.  Participation is the new customer service and the new art of relationship marketing.  Sincere, informative, and authentic interactions count for everything.  In social media, engagement is the only way to earn customer respect and hopefully their business, loyalty, and referrals as we continue to do what matters to earn their friendship.

Relationships are the new currency in Social Media, and as we all know, relationships need cultivation and value from both sides in order to grow into something of value and longevity.

You can connect with Brian on Twitter, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Pownce, Plaxo, FriendFeed, or Facebook.

Brian Solis is Principal of FutureWorks, an acclaimed PR and New Media agency in Silicon Valley and also blogs at PR 2.0 and bub.blicio.us . Along with Geoff Livingston, Solis recently co-authored “Now is Gone,” a new, award-winning book that helps businesses learn how to leverage New and Social Media.

(Photo credit: wds2007)

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