Commentary

Use The Full Social Ecosystem To Leverage Digital Transformation

According to the State of Social Engagement 2016 report from Lithium Technologies, to examine the effectiveness of social engagement with customers by brands, “ the results are alarming,” with only two percent of brands consistently responding to customers' online posts and less than 40% ever engaging with follower content.

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Combining hard numbers with human analysis, the State of Social looks at eight industries and 85 Fortune 1000 companies to determine how strategic and effective brands are across their social communities and channels.

Rob Tarkoff, President and CEO of Lithium Technologies, says that "Simply having a presence on social does not automatically mean you are getting it right… the promise of social for brands has always been the chance to directly engage with customers… but (the study) show(s)… most brands and industries are coming up short…”

Lithium has been devoted to helping brands develop better relationships with their customers via online, on-domain communities and social customer service platforms, and the study was undertaken to gain insights into the most effective methods to accomplish this mission. The resultant data contains interesting stories about the state of social as a community platform and what that tells us about engagement, customer experiences and relationships.

The report uncovers proven better relationships where engage, inspire, educate and interact with customers in online communities and across social channels drive better revenue, increase customer satisfaction/loyalty and create cost savings.

The result is embracing a “total community” approach that puts the customer at the center of every touchpoint they have with your brand. It combines the power of online community, social channels, and brand experts to create more responsive, compelling and satisfying experiences for customers.

This total community approach (online community, social channels, and brand experts) is growing, says the report. Social usage is becoming just a normal way of life for many (70% of people in the US use social), and brands are investing in social, with Forrester Research forecasting that US marketers alone will spend $15.5 billion on social marketing in 2016.

According to a Nielsen study, 93% of business leaders say their company is adapting well to digital transformation, but the authors of this report feel otherwise. Though three-fourths of online Americans in 2016 expect a response to their query within the same day, and in 2014, only two-thirds expected that. Only 2% of brands consistently respond to customers’ posts according to the study. In addition:

  • 95% of brands are stuck in “broadcast” mode - not engaging customers on social channels
  • Less than 40% of brands ever ask questions of their followers (39%) or engage with follower content (35%)

The report examines these storylines, shares key findings and brings context to the data to raise the art of Total Community to a new level. To understand how brands engaged with their communities, the study looked at six channels including:

  • Appropriate use of channel
  • Active community management
  • Content quality as an engagement asset
  • Engagement
  • Collaboration with influencers
  • Amplification tactics

Key Findings According to the Report

Smart brands are starting to use their full social ecosystem to aggregate and link to deeper community content. This results in the leverage of both the community and social experience. It also facilitates the appropriate and best use of each channel while still sharing across the entire community/social ecosystem.

Community Management

Brands primarily use their social ecosystem to broadcast and push content. Few take the time to recognize contributors, answer questions, reply to service issues or ask for feedback or opinions. These have been established community best practices for over a decade. Some respond with such obvious rote answers that the human voice of community is replaced by a robotic one.

Personalization

The study analysts looked for evidence of personalization as an important return motivator. Though 92% of CMOs believe that personalized experiences will drive value, shorten sales cycles and deepen affinity, personalized experiences were almost nonexistent, says the report. The only place where there was any evidence was in the online communities. Many brands use personalization as an ad targeting strategy and fail to provide content and experiences tied to a consumer’s profile information and channel behavior.

Most brands did a great job of posting beautiful and compelling visual content that reflected the brand essence or showed the product within a lifestyle context. Only 6%, however, took the opportunity to tell a deeper story through the use of sequential posts. This is an emerging best practice where small “bites” of content are de riguer.

Influencer Collaboration

Very few brands did a good job of influencer collaboration, says the report. Influencer co-creation helps “amp up” sharing and opens the brand to exposure among the influencers’ followings. It also presents the opportunity to feature the brand more contextually and see it through the fresh perspective of the influencer. The most successful influencer content (high volume of views and likes) featured the influencer using the product in a way that would resonate with their audience.

Use of Video

With a few exceptions, brands have not yet optimized their video strategy, as most use YouTube as a broadcast channel with low engagement. In many instances, viewership was high, but very few used embedded links to drive to a deeper conversation or to poll viewers, according to the report. A very small percentage of viewers “liked” the video or left comments. Only a handful of brands exposed live streaming on their channels or invited people to participate in a virtual event. Less than 20% of brands had high engagement on YouTube.

In contrast, a high percentage of brands embedded videos in their social channels. Facebook had 74% of brands that embedded videos in their posts, followed by 62% that embedded videos in their tweets. 68% included a link to a CTA in their video posts.

Online Communities

Technology, telecommunications and retail are examples of industries that use their communities to drive deeper understanding about their products and provide answers to consumers’ service issues. Others, however, have not widely embraced online communities and are abdicating part of their community mission to third-parties. The same phenomenon occurs in the media industry, where only one brand included a community in its ecosystem, says the report.

Conclusion

Concluding, the report says that it’s time for brands to up the ante on the experiences they offer consumers across their social ecosystems. It is no longer enough to push relevant, entertaining or educational content. While this is important, it does little to actually engage customers or offer a consumer a reason to love a brand. The study finds that truly engaged brands offer outstanding social customer service and “knock their socks off” experiences. Just posting is not enough to get consumers to care or come back. Consumers quickly abandon these social wastelands in favor of brands which demonstrate a sense of collaboration and belonging. This is when consumers sense a commitment from the brand to their needs and preferences.

The brands that did well in the study shared some common traits:

  • Included links to places where the consumer could more deeply engage with the brand.
  • Offered a diverse content mix that focused on inspiring, educating and showcasing the brand as a “lifestyle”.
  • Interacted with their consumers instead of simply pushing content.

For more detail from Lithium Technologies, please visit here.

 

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