The internet makes it easy to publish; social technologies make it easy to share. The resulting explosion of user-generated-content (UCG)—real, authentic voices of shared experience—has changed our economy forever.
Yet most companies today struggle with social media blaming lack of resources, no competency, or the inability to measure. Many that have jumped in so far mostly just fold social in to existing business processes as a new channel. They get a Twitter handle and a Facebook page and start tracking channel successes like fans and followers. They congratulate themselves as the channel successes pile up, but eventually someone starts looking for business outcomes and their channel-centric view of social media blinds them from being able to point to a single dollar saved or earned.
But social media isn’t just another channel. It’s a new and hugely efficient collaboration engine—a mechanism for matching talent and knowledge with those in need. With online communities, smart brands give people with problems instant access to people with solutions—real people just like them. When 92% of customers trust each other and just 14% trust brands, viewing social media as a trust building opportunity rather than just another channel is exactly the kind of strategy that keeps pushing these brands to the head of the pack.
Today’s business environment demands that we get our heads out of a channel mentality and align our social strategies around the customer. Further, we must get out of our functional siloes and align our business strategies around the customer—to stop treating service and marketing as separate initiatives. We need better functional alignment across the business to deliver more cohesive, meaningful, impactful, and relevant customer experiences across all parts of the customer journey. And we need to build those experiences around something our customers trust. Not the brand messages we proclaim—the user generated content our customers trust.
In order to build valuable, trusted UGC, today’s forward-leaning brands create engaging social customer experiences that motivate and reward contribution. They develop full-blown knowledge bases around UGC, capturing it, organizing it, and making it easily accessible by anyone in need. And they save multi-millions per year in the process. When it comes to creating and distributing information customers need, smart brands prove every day that social technologies offer a novel opportunity to realize off-the-chart scale.
Using the power of the crowd, top social brands today grow their service and support teams exponentially, deepen their knowledge bases many-fold and speed up innovation by looking at thousands of ideas instead of several. They don’t just push impressions through existing social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They build their own customer networks, turning the power of social into a perennial business asset that delivers returns year after year.
Australian-based voice and broadband company, Telstra, has realized a 20% decrease in calls to the call center since launching its own customer community. UK-based mobile service operator giffgaff has no call center at all. Their customer community answers 100% of inquiries in an average of 90 seconds. What’s more, giffgaff enjoys one of the highest Net Promoter Scores on record, right up there with the likes of Google and Apple.
Driving meaningful results through social media is fast becoming the new normal. We’re not fully there quite yet, but there is an enormous opportunity for differentiation in a crowded landscape. While the channel-centric, functionally siloed competition is still counting fans and followers, smart brands like Telstra and giffgaff are using social to change the way they organize work, apply talent, conduct research and make and market their products. These trailblazers show us every day that when we stop approaching social as just another channel and start seeing its potential to transform our operations, our customer relationships—indeed our entire business—we unlock its full potential.
Rob Tarkoff is President and CEO of Lithium, responsible for strategic direction and corporate vision.
He joined Lithium in Sept 2011 from Adobe Systems, where he served as Snr VP and General Manager of the Digital Enterprise Solutions business unit.
You can follow him onTwitter: @rtarkoff.
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