Consumer conversations surprise brands in a lot of ways. Customers often care more about some things than a brand realizes and less about what the brand thinks is important. This can affect social media, marketing and even product decisions.
In recent years, General Mills learned through customer conversations that families were playing with the Pillsbury dough, making shapes and designs for fun; not just cooking with it. Based on this insight, General Mills revitalized a tired brand by focusing on the family activity value the product enables.
Learning more about your customers from social and impacting your business is not new. Several years ago, Sun Microsystems discovered software developers were not talking about the category of tools they, IBM, and Microsoft were developing. Rather they were talking about a set of tools nobody was advancing. With this insight, Sun changed its strategy, re-allocated its budgets to the tools developers were interested in, and leaped ahead of their competition.
Customer conversations can also reveal that the message the brand intends to transmit via its marketing is not the message being heard. Either the marketing needs to be improved, the target audience changed, or a fundamental product change is needed. Conversations can also reveal customer support issues. In some cases, customers will solve each other’s problems through those conversations.
Social data from conversations outside your brand — say product category or target audience level — reveal insights about what consumers care about and why. This can inform your product development, business strategy, messaging and positioning, and inform the tactics you pursue to win customers.
Social data from customer conversations can provide brand, product, and consumer insights that you can apply to everyday marketing decisions. Social provides a rich, real-time, rejuvenated data source that brands are using to make smarter decisions.
Then there is the business benefit of higher customer satisfaction with lower costs by managing customer support issues in social media. Your customers are already there, trying to talk to you and trying to find resolution. Increasingly, the category leaders will be the companies who create positive customer experiences on both the pre and post sales side.
Phone support costs anywhere from $10 per inquiry (offshore and fully costed) to $23 per inquiry (US average for typical consumer products) to over $100 per inquiry (Cable TV), with Email and chat typically running $5-$10/inquiry. Customer support via social media discussions (a discussion thread on Facebook or a community web site discussion board) can be as little as $2/inquiry if a support agent is involved, or $0 marginal cost when the customers answer each other’s questions, which they like to do.
Social media empowers your customers to help each other, which is a rewarding experience for them and builds a knowledge base for the brand. Generally, your customers as a whole know more about the products than the brand does. In social, we say, “Nobody is as clever as everybody.”
Peter Friedman is the chairman & CEO of LiveWorld. LiveWorld is a social media solutions company that provides services and software for brands to scale human engagement.
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