As we kick off 2019, the energy and anticipation of what lies ahead in the social and digital media spheres is palpable. This includes both tech advancements and changes in the way that businesses incorporate these media functions into their operations. These are some of the social & digital media trends expected to make an impact on the business and marketing landscapes this year:
>> Integration: Social and digital media will play a much more integrated role within organisations. As opposed to being treated as separate marketing elements, brands are embracing the business functions and value offered by these media types. For example, there will be an increase in the use of omnichannel (multiple channel – e.g. traditional plus social media) marketing, and the use of social media for different business objectives.
>> Risk & Reputation Management: With the ease, speed and reach of social media communication, the potential risk to brand reputation has never been higher. And therefore, the need for crisis and reputation management has never been more vital. Businesses will be partnering more with experts in this field in an attempt to best avoid and/or handle a possible negative public backlash, scandal or crisis linked to their brand.
>> Online & Asset Security: Companies have started to realise that online resources such as their audiences, content and databases are tangible, valuable assets. As such, the need for online security will increase exponentially to address the very real risks to such assets.
>> Budget Allocations: Let’s face it, not all business decision-makers were convinced that social media has a place in business. But now, the ROI and benefits are getting harder to ignore. Social media budget allocations are set to rise across all industries this year. SME’s in particular (even those with tight budgets) will be investing more in social media as the cost not to is too high in the current competitive market.
Brand Affinity & Customer Experience
>> Customer Experience & Service: There will be a notable shift towards a more Customer Experience (CX) approach by brands in line with consumer demand trends. Characteristics of this approach include customer-centric elements such as responsiveness, being “always-on”, interactive communication, quality content, targeted messaging & increased use of social media.
>> Brand awareness & affinity: In addition to price and quality, more emotion-based factors like customer sentiment and positive affinity will take centre stage. This is driven by CX-based factors such as ensuring excellent customer experiences throughout their journey with a brand. Positioning a brand as both client-focused and socially responsible is also a great way to drive awareness.
>> Social Listening: This year, egos will take a step back as social listening activities increase. It’s no longer about assuming what people think, but instead finding out how they really feel about a brand based on what is said online. This extends to comments on any platform, not just a business’s own pages.
>> Micro-influencers: You don’t need to be a celebrity to become an influencer online. In fact, as consumers increasingly demand authenticity and transparency, brands are looking more to micro-influencers to help market their products and services. This could range from a food blogger to a stay-at-home-mom, and anyone between. It’s all about expertise in a field and/or an engaged, relevant audience.
>> Influencer Vetting: As more awareness is shed on factors such as bought or “fake” audiences, brands recognise that there is a need to vet any influencer before creating a partnership. This due diligence includes verifying their audiences, approving content and ensuring that there is no conflict of interest (with a competitor, for example).
>> Employee Advocacy: Also known as Employee Amplification, it refers to using key employees as online ambassadors for their company. Techniques such as positioning certain staff as thought leaders and trusted advisors will gain traction in both the B2B and B2C spheres this year. This is great for both personal and business branding.
>> 360 Video: Businesses have started using 360 video to provide users with a panoramic, immersive experience. Industries that are already making use of this include entertainment and tourism companies. With customer experience being at the forefront, more businesses are likely to experiment with this video style in the upcoming months.
>> Vertical Video: As social and digital gains exponential market share over traditional marketing media, vertical video will be seen more and more. This is simply because such media is viewed predominantly on mobile devices. Instagram has even launched a dedicated vertical video platform, titled IGTV.
>> Native video: The use of native video (video uploaded on a brand’s own page or platform as opposed to a 3rd-party app like YouTube) will also increase. The launch of LinkedIn’s native video ad campaign options and Instagram’s long format video options further support this trend.
>> Automation, AI & Machine Learning: While the “social” side of social media is all about adding the human element to online activity, the tech side is all about reducing human contact points. More businesses will be incorporating automation into their service process, for example, social media bots. It’s all about streamlining processes, improving customer service and cutting costs.
>> Augmented Reality: Ok, so maybe this tech is not quite mainstream as yet, but it is definitely super cool. Augmented Reality or AR refers to digital, interactive technology delivered to the user in real-time. For example, apps that brings a child’s drawing to life when you position a smartphone or tablet above it. This video explains it much better – click to watch. From a marketing perspective, this technology can be used for anything from outdoor media (like a bus shelter) to wine bottle labels – click here to watch video.
Well there you have it – some exciting stuff in store this year. Keep watch as they start to shake up the business and consumer markets over the upcoming months.
For more info on these or any other social and digital media topics, get in touch with Social Media 101. We would love to chat to you about the best options for your business. CLICK HERE to contact us.
Customer Service Versus Customer Experience: The term “Customer Experience” or CX is often mentioned in business – more so over the last couple of years. But what exactly does it mean? Is it just another way to describe customer service or is it something else altogether? In this article, we look at what Customer Experience is all about, what sets it apart from customer service and what significance it holds for business. We explain why your organisation should adopt a CX approach, and also provide practical solutions, like social media techniques, to help kick start this transition. Intrigued? Let’s get started.
CUSTOMER SERVICE VERSUS CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Customer service, customer experience – Aren’t they the same thing? Not quite. Both concepts deal with the interaction between brands and consumers, but the way in which this takes place differs from one approach to the other. Customer service generally refers to actual tasks and actions related to serving and servicing customers. Customer experience, on the other hand, focuses on public perception of the brand in its entirety. It is important to note that customer service remains a key component of customer experience. The difference is that with a CX approach, customer support activities form part of an integrated client-focused business strategy as opposed to being an independent department or set of tasks. Each term can be defined as follows:
> Customer service refers to support provided by a company to its clients. It generally includes services such as responding to queries (e.g. product price and stockists), sales support (e.g. sales consultants in-store) after-sales assistance (e.g. technical support) and complaint resolution.
> Customer Experience (CX) encompasses the entire journey or sum total of experiences that a client has with a brand. It includes everything from the first point of contact (such as seeing an advert on social media or a product in-store) to post-sales customer relationship. It not only includes physical factors such as the quality of a product, but also emotion-based elements such as customer perception and brand sentiment.
Customer Services versus Customer Experience – As a quick reference, here’s a comparison between customer service and customer experience, highlighting key characteristics of each approach:
WHY CHANGE TO A CX-BASED BUSINESS APPROACH?
The answer to that lies in understanding why the CX approach emerged in the first place. The customer experience approach was developed as a response to changing consumer demands. Recent changes saw purchasing behaviour being influenced by client-centric elements at an increasing rate. This shift in consumer behaviour led to companies changing their business models to suit these demands. The result was a highly customer-centric approach that not only catered to these client needs, but also the changing business landscape in terms of digitisation and alternate media. This was termed the Customer Experience approach. In the current market, convenience, user-value, personalised communication and brand image are slowly overtaking price as decision-making factors by buyers. In fact, according to statistics, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better brand experience (www.qualtrics.com).
So back to the question: Why change to CX? Well, it simply comes down to supply and demand. Customers demand a CX approach – and the better a brand supplies this demand, the higher their success potential. Studies show that this shift is not just a passing fad – they indicate that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator (www.econsultancy.com). This is further backed up by Deloitte who state that a consumer’s decision to buy a product or service is impacted by their overall enjoyment of their experience. (www.econsultancy.com). In a consumer-driven business environment, failing to meet customer demands will not just lead to unrealised sales potential, but inevitably, losing market-share to competitors that satisfy said demands.
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAN HELP YOU TRANSITION TO A CX-BASED APPROACH
By design, social media platforms are ideally suited to a CX-based approach. Below is a list of business characteristics for a strong customer centric approach and details on how social media supports each element:
> Convenience: Consumer research shows that the preferred brand platform for communication is social media. This communication includes sales & marketing content, as well as customer-service-based interactions such as queries, complaints and technical support. Most web-traffic being mobile-based, and as social media is highly mobile-optimised, this increases convenience for customers.
> User Value: Customers support brands that provide some sort of value for them. Social media supports value-rich content such as articles, blogs and surveys. The ability to upload different media types (e.g. images, videos and slideshows) also boosts entertainment and enjoyment levels for consumers.
> Responsiveness, adaptability & interactivity: Clients expect quick turn-around times, responsive service and personalised two-way communication. Social media promotes all this and more. Brands can interact on a one-on-one basis with clients, as well as provide personalised marketing messaging to different client segments. By nature, social media response times are much faster than most traditional customer service methods. Brands can even change their native content in minutes should there be a serious negative response by consumers.
> Positive Brand Image & Affinity: Social media allows brands to position themselves in a desirably manner to boost sentiment. This can be done by increasing user-value through content (as mentioned above), as well as by highlighting positive elements such as a business’s community work or social responsibility projects.
> Customer Journey & Relationships: Social media supports the entire customer journey – from the first point of contact to every other interaction thereafter. This includes brand awareness, sales, marketing, technical support and after-sales communication. It also allows for consistency of experience throughout this journey.
> Quality Service: The combination of the above factors, along with other related functions, means that social media helps improve the overall quality of service that a business offers. This ties in to the overall experience that a customer has with a brand, which is what CX is all about.
To summarise, the core goal of the customer experience approach is to promote positive brand perception that leads to long-term customer relationships. This in turn helps achieve brand objectives such as sales generation, customer retention and business growth. CX is rapidly becoming the primary factor influencing purchasing decisions and customer loyalty. For business success, it is imperative for companies to implement a CX-based approach as part of overall business strategy. Social media is excellently suited to support customer experience and business goals. It is also a cost-effective and non-disruptive way to transition businesses from a purely customer service approach to a customer experience approach. And in a relatively short period of time.
Need assistance with your CX-based activities? Social Media 101 can help with customised solutions to suit your unique business needs. CLICK HERE to get in touch with Social Media 101.
At a recent roundtable discussion comprising marketing professionals from a range of industries (including hospitality, music and banking), we investigated the challenges faced regarding social media marketing. We asked marketing professionals what their single biggest problem was when it comes to marketing their brand on social media. We expected responses such as “understanding algorithms” or “measuring return on investment”. Instead, the leading answer was (surprisingly): getting approval for a social media budget. Some marketing managers had difficulty getting sufficient funds allocated towards social media activities, while others struggled to get a budget at all.
Most of the marketers surveyed attributed this problem to their organisation’s decision-makers’ lack of understanding regarding the business value offered by social media. The rest simply didn’t know where to start in terms of approaching their business’s CEO/Director/Owner/Financial Manager about investing in social media. Based on the insight provided by this focus group, we have put together some tips to help marketers when it comes to getting your social media budget approved.
Getting your social media budget approved – tips for marketers
Before approaching your company’s decision-maker about social media budgets, make sure that you have the required information and insight at hand. These are some tips and techniques designed to help you motivate your case for social media investment:
Take an integrated approach: Instead of approaching social media as a separate marketing component, integrate it with your overall marketing plan. Social media has the capability to support virtually any other marketing activity. For example, driving foot traffic if you have an in-store sale or boosting awareness and ticket sales for an event. It should therefore form an integral part of your marketing mix. Presenting a well-designed marketing plan that includes social media may be more favourably received than a separate social media plan in isolation.
Do the research: Social media is able to support your brand’s needs, wants and priorities. Shortlist your company’s business objectives and look at how social media can promote each of these goals. This includes tangible factors such as sales generation, as well as promoting goals such as increasing brand awareness or positive affinity. Both short- and long-term company goals should be taken into account when ascertaining how social media can be used to benefit the business.
Do the legwork: Consult with social media specialists to gain insight into solutions that would work best for your brand. Speak to more than one expert so that you can get a balanced idea of the options that you have. Thereafter, get quotes that are in line with an appropriate social media strategy for your brand. By doing this, you will be able to explain how the requested social media budget will be spent, as well as the underlying rationale of the plan. If hiring an in-house team is not a viable option, look at outsourcing this function. That way you can get the benefit of excellent social media management without the hassle of employing more people. This will save time, effort, money, company resources and other overhead considerations. Read more…
Rands and Sense: Social media has the potential to provide high return on investment. Again, this is both in terms of bottom-line results as well as factors like brand positioning or customer satisfaction. It is an efficient, cost-effective marketing method. A well-executed social media strategy is one that is highly result-driven. This means that funds allocated towards social media should be viewed as an investment in the business, not as an unnecessary expense.
It’s all in the numbers: Most decision-makers are fans of reports and statistics. While traditional marketing does provide some data, social media does not shy away from the numbers and is rich in qualitative and quantitative metrics. Social media platforms are able to provide measurable results, accurate data, comprehensive reports and even information like insight into consumer behaviour and market trends. Emphasise the science behind social media, and how it can improve the business in general – not just marketing tasks. This alone may be the key to winning over the financial gatekeeper.
Re-allocate Marketing Budgets: If your company has budget restrictions and simply cannot increase marketing spend, consider re-allocating existing budgets. Analyse the returns you are receiving from your current marketing platforms (e.g. billboards, television and print). Then look at re-allocating some of these funds to social media activities.
Additional points to support social media investment:
To substantiate your “pitch” for a social media budget, these are some of the additional benefits offered by social media:
> It offers custom audience targeting – meaning that there is little to no wastage on unsuitable consumer segments. This makes it a highly targeted and cost-efficient marketing method.
> It is versatile and supports different media types (image, video, slideshows etc). You can also provide value-rich content (such as tips, articles, insight) in addition to marketing content.
> You can interact directly with your clients as social media supports two-way communication, which is great for improved customer support services.
> In today’s digitally rich business environment, it is imperative that brands have a strong social media presence and are active and agile to respond to comments, queries and complaints which assist in reducing risk for the company.
The key to getting senior decision-makers to invest in social media lies in demonstrating the business value offered by social media. Also, social media is not a passing fad – it is here to stay. Therefore, not being on social media leaves a business at a disadvantage. This is both in terms of competitors, as well as business progression. Social media is no longer a “nice-to-have”, it is a “must have”.
We hope that the above points help with the challenge of getting social media investment – both in terms of finances and interest. For additional insight and advice, get in touch with the Social Media 101 team. We can also assist with effective social media strategy planning and execution, as well as platform management. CLICK HERE to contact Social Media 101.
This title may seem unsettling to some since social media is generally seen as an intangible online marketing platform for businesses. Either that or many idle hours spent by employees. The sheer fact that these platforms exist online makes it intangible and furthermore social media being a place, online where people from all around the world connect, post and share is quite an unusual concept when thinking more on it. In the same breath, it is fair to say that social media has disrupted our view of the world and is quite likely to stay. In its intangible force, social media has infiltrated society, media, business and brands and has changed the way we operate as a people in some quite extraordinary ways.
So how do we consider this “social media” as an investment? Let’s unpack this in a little more detail:
Specifically referring to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, etc. For a business, having a page on any of these social media platforms is very much the same as having a dedicated radio channel. Your branded station on social media where you are able to broadcast information about your company and its products or services that is widely available to anyone who may happen upon your page. A business’s social media pages should be viewed as assets and investments and should be secured and treated strategically based on what you want the world to know about your business. Your page is a place to express your brand, and let’s face it, snap judgements are eminent.
Social media is a hub of content ranging from articles, posts, videos and flyers to thoughts, stories and comments. All of this content is tangible, it exists and can be printed or converted onto CD or DVD if the need really arose to have a hard copy. All these content assets can and should be viewed as investments. Content takes time, resources and money to produce where in the ever-expanding world of the internet, this content lives on forever (or at least until the internet ceases to exist – another conversation for another day). Content can be revived and repurposed in varying ways, transformed from an inspired blog article to an opt-in data building strategy. It can be built upon to tell a story, educate and inform and should be seen as time and money well spent. Content forms the basis of your business’s personality and persona online, it is those tangible snippets that give customers a sense of what you have to offer. Content should be considered strategically and with a long-term view in mind, even if it may only be relevant or available in the moment of a fast-paced social media environment.
Your online or social media community is an investment. These people (yes, they are real behind the screen), have taken the time to like, follow or connect with your page. They are interested, in varying degrees, in what you have to offer. These collections of likes should be nurtured and managed as they are very likely to be your customers; past, present or future. Online communities require a person or team to manage them, to talk to them, answer questions and queries while speedily escalating or resolving complaints. Companies invest in well-trained customer call centers and well-groomed receptionist, where social media community managers should be as skilled to be front facing, customer centric, problem solvers. Remember, the conversation will happen online whether you are there or not.
How can a crisis be an investment you ask? This point is more on crisis management which leads on from the closing remark on the last point. The conversation will happen whether you are there to join in or not. Social media effectively exists, even if your business chooses to not engage in it. Customers and people in general have free access to these platforms and can freely comment about your brand or business as they wish. Ensuring your business is invested in a crisis management process could mean the opportunity to address any negative feedback or scandals that could arise. There are also opportunities in such crises where your business could be made aware to blind spots, improving products, services or processes. Social media should be viewed as an investment in the face of a crisis where it provides your brand a platform to explain.
Not just for idle time wasted through news feeds, equipping your employees with tactics and techniques to be first to respond to clients and customers on social media could amplify your brand exponentially. Employee advocacy programs could be implemented by provided pre-curated content to your human assets in supporting your business’s online presence. Through this, customers get an insight into your company culture, you tap into your employee networks and this allows an opportunity to humanise your business online. People still do prefer to do business with people, even though a lot of interaction happens online.
Building relationships with influential people within your business network is imperative. Social media users are still more likely to take recommendations from their network over a brand, meaning that for companies it is an investment to acquire online influence whether through other customers, your employees or paid for influencers relevant in your industry.
As a social media consultancy, we look to assist businesses in driving tangible results through the use of their social media, further proving these strategies to be an investment. Feel free to reach out to discuss this further. CLICK HERE to contact Social Media 101 – we look forward to hearing from you.