The five fundamental steps to building customer relationships on social media

Social media can be an excellent channel for building long-lasting customer relationships. Prompt and effective responses to requests for product information, praise or feedback about service, or complaints can result in improved customer support, quicker order fulfillment and faster lead qualification.

Therefore, when using social media as a business tool it’s important to take strategic steps to ensure you can take full advantage of the opportunity.

Here are some recommendations that can help you leverage the power of social media to build customer strong relationships.

 

Select your social channels carefully. In addition to the old guard of Facebook,Twitter and LinkedIn, platforms such as TumblrInstagram and Pinterest are the new channels of digital influence, being used for everything from real-time engagement to customer service. Also don’t forget that Google+ has excellent reach to the more technical audience and is also coming on strong with all the resources of Google at its disposal.

Use social media management toolkits. Use tools that let you quickly identify issues related to your company from the massive pool of updates including blog comments, podcasts, pictures and videos. Take note of more advanced features available from toolkits including image recognition to identify photographs and videos that are relevant to your product offering.

Have an integration strategy. To provide value to enterprise users (e.g. sales, marketing, customer support), relevant social media content should be integrated with your CRM and other core IT systems, such as ERP, finance and logistics, creating a centralised enterprise portal. A systems integration platform with interfaces to social media and popular IT systems can provide the needed connectivity. As social media networks go in and out of favor, loosely coupled integration provided by an integration platform means that you can easily add, remove or change social media channels as warranted.

Automate processes wherever possible. Information from social media should be as actionable, such as automatically triggering alerts in cases of negative comments so they can be handled as quickly as possible.  Although the processes should be automated, the interactions themselves should be personalised. Canned responses are obvious to customers and have a negative impact on the company’s image.

I recently had a great experience with this when my British Airways flight was delayed: I was upset and (very) vocal on social media about the incident. I was quickly sent a survey to get my feedback about the event and their response, and shortly after I received a gift of bonus points on my loyalty scheme. BA tend to be very good at picking up this kind of activity and responding to it, and that can make all the difference as a customer.

Investigate Big Data analysis and manipulation. With so much data now at hand, there is great potential to better understand and manage customer relationships. This can include using image recognition to identify elements in posts and correlate it with other elements, but it’s also key to being able to actively manage relationships with many customers and potential customers on a personal level.

Customers are already using social media to lodge complaints, give compliments and ask questions. It’s imperative for businesses to meet their customers where they are and address any customer service or support issues as quickly as possible.  A comprehensive system integration strategy and platform can help support the process and accelerate companies’ ability to enjoy the benefits of social CRM.

 

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