One of the first social media goals a company sets, is getting to know their customers and trying to provide them with what is termed as a better ‘Customer Experience‘. It’s great if your brand is mentioned on social media sites by your fans as well as others. However, knowing what they are actually saying about you is equally important.
Whether the comments are good or bad, your job is to listen to everything said about the company and respond in an appropriate manner; hopefully in such a way that you strengthen fan loyalty and attract new followers. Converting a furious customer into a staunch supporter is difficult, but not impossible.
The case of Mansi Trivedi and Flipkart is a great example of when an irate customer used social media to reach the company, and was converted from a prospective customer to an advocate of the brand because of the quick and helpful online response. (Mansi got a free book from Flipkart too :P). Customer Engagement is one of the key factors in analyzing online sentiment abound your brand. So, what exactly is a Customer Engagement? Long story short –
It’s basically a repeated interaction by a customer, which strengthens his emotional/psychological bond with the brand.
Brands on Social Media basically strive for three long term goals:
- Increase in Sales
- Lower Costs
- Increase Customer Satisfaction
You might focus on any one goal or on all the three. But more or less, any goal the company strives towards achieving through Social Media, is usually linked to these three goals. And these three complement each other perfectly.
An increase in customer satisfaction will boost brand awareness, which in turn might improve your sales, as satisfied customers tend to stick around for a longer time and endorse your products. Many companies nowadays, provide customer support through Social Media for two basic reasons:
- Social Media is Free
- Support is where people are
So, if a brand like Flipkart helps me with a question or problem in record time, I would be more than happy to recommend it to my friends. Not only would quick and helpful customer support retain a faithful customer, but it would in turn, also compel my followers and friends to look at the brand’s website if they were considering buying anything at that instant. In the end, it is a self-perpetuating cycle.
As Jim Sterne rightly pointed out in his book for Social Media Metrics, Customer Engagement goes through five phases:
Simple brand awareness does not guarantee success. What drives or persuades a fan into becoming a customer, is the type of products you offer in comparison to your competitors, and most importantly, what their fellow fans are saying about the brand.
So, if I want to buy a laptop, I would not simply go to a store and purchase it. I would go to the brand’s Facebook page, and look at different forums of people discussing the positive and negative aspects about the products, and comparing the products with competitors’. If your brand is driving enough engagement with customers in terms of offers/content and support, I might be tempted to tilt in your favor.
This is where Awareness becomes Persuasion and eventually leads to a sales prospect. Retention on the other hand, comes as an After Sales effort. However, it is equally important in making sure you retain your customer base by maintaining a positive vibe around the product on social media conversations and providing quick online support.
Not only will this retain your customer base, but will help make them become advocates of your brand, which in turn, would further fuel your brand to new heights and create greater brand value.