Guest author Rob Tarkoff is the president and CEO of Lithium Technologies.
It's 2013. Social media is no longer new. It's a mature medium, one that has been woven into the fabric of consumer life online. So why are brands still determined to act like naive tourists, blundering around a foreign land and upsetting the natives? It's time to take back control.
Brands have been lectured for the last few years on the need to let go of the vice-like grip on their brand, to hand over control to their customers in social media. And it's true that social media has ushered in a new age of transparency, where customers want a far greater stake in any brand they interact with.
But this doesn't mean you can shrug your shoulders and simply launch your brand unguided onto a social network. In fact, it's your responsibility to guide your customers' social experience. And that means welcoming them back to your home online.
Almost all of the most embarrassing recent social media blunders took place on Facebook and Twitter; which offer brands little control over their campaigns or messaging.
Forget Likes, Fans & Followers
It's frankly shameful so many brands are still asking social media to deliver likes, fans, followers, views and channel performance indicators, not business results.
Forward-thinking brands ask social media to deliver things that make business sense. Things like higher customer satisfaction, greater loyalty, reduced support costs and increased revenue.
Social media can be a game-changer, but only when we get serious about the social customer experiences. It's really not that difficult.
First, we must face the facts about social networks like Facebook - they just don't constitute a viable social media strategy. They're almost certainly not where you want to make your home. Only .5% of fans ever mention the brands they like on Facebook and just 2% of fans return to Facebook brand pages a second time.
If you really want to engage with your customers on social channels, you need to engage on your own social hubs: customer forums, blogs and communities.
When cosmetics retailer Sephora realized it had little ability to truly engage its nearly 1 million Facebook fans, for example, the company built its own social hub, Beauty Talk. Sephora now has the ability to engage and enlist their social customers to participate - and Beauty Talk members spend 10x more than the average customer.
Driving this kind of outcome is simply not possible on Facebook.
Social Media Is Not A Silo
Today, only a shocking 11% of companies say their social strategy is guided by insights from other business groups. This means 89% of social strategy happens in a silo. To drive social customer experience to the strategic level, it's essential to get others involved - across marketing, support and sales.
Next, stop playing. Experimentation is great. Endless experimentation is not. Make social engagement a core part of how you interact with your customers. Some 63% of consumers now search for help from other customers online. For example, Hewlett Packard has saved $50 million since launching its social support solution.
Measure What's Important
Now, start measuring the actual impact of your social media strategy. Ban the pointless hunt for buzz, likes, comments, high fives - what do they really mean for your business?
Instead, move to the same metrics you apply to any other area of your business, like reduced costs, greater satisfaction and increased revenue.
Once you have these foundations in place, it's time to scale. A single Twitter campaign can create an ocean of comments. How do you deal with that flood? By enabling your social customers to help each other. Skype community members help more than 3 million customers per month and resolve 70% of cases on first contact. Hewlett Packard's social customers handle 20% of the company's global support.
With nearly 1.5 billion people using online social networks today, social media can no longer remain an afterthought - a sandbox for dabbling. Brands need to treat their social media investment as a core part of their long-term business transformation, not as a specific activity that you want to check off the list. Anything less just isn't serious.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.