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Have You Jumped on the Social Media Bandwagon?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a strategy that a marketer uses to facilitate customer interaction with their company.  One of the most common CRM strategies is customer service cards, where customers are offered special purchase discounts or cumulative purchase points which can be exchanged for rewards and special benefits.   However, with the increased use and popularity of social media, companies are expanding their CRM programs in an effort to retain current customers, attract new prospects and to better understand customers buying patterns, wants and needs.  With each new advance in technology — especially the proliferation of self-service channels like the Web and smartphones — customer relationships is being managed electronically.   Armed with all the data, businesses can now offer its customers targeted coupons and other programs that will motivate them to buy more products and services.

Many aspects of CRM relies heavily on technology; however the strategies and processes of a good CRM system will collect, manage and link information about the customer with the goal of letting a business  market and sell services more effectively.  With the user explosion of social media and the mobile new communication technologies developing and managing marketing factors like social media and new marketing opportunities for mobile devises, it is vital for today’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to fully understand why customers are interested in using social media to interact with a particular brand or company.

The IBM Institute for Business Value recently surveyed 1,000 customers from all over the world, as well as 350 key marketing executives and discovered significant discrepancies in what CMO’s believe customers want from a social media experience and what customers really want.  The illuminating results from the study are unveiled in the two-part “From social media to Social Customer Relationship Management (CRM)” white paper indicate that customers are far more pragmatic than many CMO’s believe, and therefore need to design experiences that deliver tangible value in return for customers’ time, attention and data.  The role of the business is to facilitate collaborative experiences and dialogue that customer’s value.  Social media is ultimately about interacting with others with an expectation of getting something in return.  Users are joining networking sites such as Facebook because this is where conversations are taking shape and circles of influence reside.

Consumers also say “getting tangible value’ is the reason they interact with a company and list “getting discounts or coupons” and “purchasing products and services” as the top two activities, respectively.  The survey results indicate a significant disconnect with business marketing executives who cite getting discounts and purchasing products or services as the two things customers were least interested in doing – the direct opposite of the consumers’ rankings.  Businesses are also three times more likely to think consumers are interested in interacting with them to feel part of a community. Marketers also overestimate consumers’ desire to engage with them in order to feel connected to their brand.  In fact, these two activities are among the least interesting from a consumer’s perspective.

The chasm between what customers want from their social media experience and what management thinks they want is concerning because the power of the social community’s endorsement and influence can be felt each time someone “likes” a company on Facebook or re-tweets a company’s message on Twitter.  For many companies, social media will become the gateway, if not the primary, communications channel to connect with customers so getting it right, for the right reasons, is vital to the success of a social media marketing strategy.

An effective CRM strategy is based on the understanding that the customer is now in control and that there are differences in social media and other channels of customer interaction with a company and its brand.  The customer experience must be seamless, across social media and other channels and the social solution should not be devised as an isolated standalone program, but needs to be thoughtfully integrated with other customer initiatives.  It is time marketing professionals begin to think like customers, ask customers why they choose to interact with a company in a social environment and ask them what they want from the relationship.   Listen, analyze, engage, evolve; organizations can optimize their social media programs to continually enhance their business only if they abandon the “build it and they will come” approach to social media.

The consumer findings in this study should be a wake-up call for marketing executives and professionals, that much more must be done if they want to attract more than the most devoted brand advocates.

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