Social Media And The Customer Experience: Shortening The Path To Engagement

Social media should not be just about listening and engaging with customers, but instead, should be about driving business through key performance indicators (KPIs) that map, measure and manage the customer journey from initial awareness to total engagement. 

In turn, the customer journey can be optimized, the customer experience enhanced, and the outcomes predicted in lock-step with corporate, sales and marketing goals. These are the outcomes that matter to executives, and, in turn, denote the overall relevancy of your marketing content and campaigns. 

But how can companies go from merely listening to truly leveraging social data into a source of actionable intelligence that ultimately creates customers and advocates? How can marketers make the leap from unstructured conversations to identifying customer behaviors, to fully leverage the customer journey? 

For starters, companies have mainly used social media to listen and track customer sentiment, brand loyalty, measure campaigns, or to prevent a bad event from going viral on the web. Instead, companies should leverage social data and analytics to move beyond merely listening and engaging with customers (social media 2.0) to drive business and create advocates (social media 3.0).

The key is leveraging social data to model key performance indicators (KPIs) that map, measure and strengthen customer commitment around the three fundamental journeys that all businesses need for success: Shopping, Sharing and Advocacy. 

This can be accomplished by harnessing the online and social dataset and creating models that move it from the generic aggregate to a map of individual and social experiences.

If done correctly, organizations should be able to better answer questions such as:

  • If a customer is becoming interested in buying something from you, how can you optimize that customer’s journey such that they buy from you again and again?  

  • How do you uncover and remove the barriers in the buying journey?  

  • If your customer seems to be on the road to becoming an advocate or evangelist, how do you assist and enable them?

  • What content, programs or information should you provide to help them to become your advocate?  

  • In which channels should you engage them?  

  • What are the key moments of opportunity and what are the key drivers of engagement?  

  • What should you do to build relevant relationships with your customers so that they will engage with you, and share your content to organically amplify your message? 

The customer journey represents different touch-points that characterize a person’s interaction with a brand, product or service of interest. All too often, these journey and experience maps are developed from an organization-centric point of view that assumes customer journeys are linear, and fail to take into account that customers and potential customers enact their own versions of the journey.

Understanding where the aggregate market is on the customer journey, then extrapolating that knowledge to the individual journey means companies can ultimately predict how people will behave at specific points in the journey. If prediction is unlikely (sometimes the case with surprise viral movements) then companies can at least learn how to respond quickly and effectively.

Indeed, social markers can be illuminated through both quantitative and qualitative efforts. Quantitative data, like that which resides in web analytics or social listening metrics, act as sign-posts for movements and behaviors of interest.  

For instance, a spike in website traffic or social media metrics can be correlated with specific PR, launch or marketing activities. However, to truly understand the rich complexities of social behavior it’s imperative to also track a representative sample of conversations from a qualitative point of view. 

Qualitative conversations influence the touchpoints along the journey and are rarely manifested into a single touchpoint or experience. Instead the customer accumulates a rich mixture of impressions that inform their conscious and sub-conscious decisions to purchase or build brand affinity.

Using social media as a marketing channel, or engaging in conversation is a great first step, but becoming truly relevant to your communities is the way to foster long-term engagement. By creating an environment to explore the customer experience and map responses to the customer journey, marketers can accelerate the customer to buy products or services and become an advocate for that brand.

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