Social Media 3.0: Keys to Fostering the Customer Journey

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Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Companies must go from merely "listening" to social data to truly leveraging it into a source of actionable intelligence that creates customers and advocates.

Social media should not be just about listeningand engaging withcustomers, but instead, should be about driving business through key performance indicators thatmap, measure, and managethe customer journey from initial awareness to total engagement. In turn the customer journey can be optimized, the customer experience enhanced, and the outcomes predicted in lock-step with corporate, sales and marketing goals. These are the outcomes that matter to executives, and in turn, denote the overall relevancy of your marketing content and campaigns.

Companies have mainly used social media to listen and track customer sentiment, brand loyalty, measure campaigns, or to prevent anegative event from going viral on the web. But howcan companiesgo from merely "listening" to social datato truly leveragingit intoa source of actionable intelligence that ultimately creates customers and advocates? How can marketers make the leap from unstructured conversations to identifying customer behaviors, to fully leverage the customer journey?

The core principle of CRM is the more you engage with your customers, the more you know about them. Understanding your customers is critical in anticipating their needs and making predictions about their motivations and behaviors relative to your brand and product strategies.

This can be accomplished by harnessingthe online and social dataset, model, manage, and move it from the generic aggregate to a map of individual and social experiences.

The Customer Journey

The customer journey represents different touchpoints that characterize a person's interactions with a brand, product, or service of interest. Customer journeys can be "cradle to grave," looking at the entire arc of engagement from one brand or product to the next. At other times, journey maps are used to look at very specific experience in the customer-company interactions such as the "out-of-the box" or customer support experience.

All too often, these journey and experience maps are developed from an organization-centric point of view that assumes customer journeys are linear, and fail to take into account that customers and potential customers enact their own versions of the journey.

Another thing organizations tend to overlook is that in the digital world the customer journey is no long influenced only by the messaging, promotion, and advertising brands create but is influenced heavily by social media conversations. Customers take into account and rely on conversations surrounding the brands they are evaluating to help make their decisions.

These conversations influence the touchpoints along the journey and are rarely manifested into a single touchpoint or experience. Instead the customer accumulates a rich mixture of impressions that inform their conscious and sub-conscious decisions to purchase or build brand affinity.

Measuring the "Social" Customer Journey

Understanding where the aggregate market is on the customer journey, then extrapolating that knowledge to the individual journey means companies can ultimately predict how people will behave at specific points in the journey. If prediction is unlikely (sometimes the case with surprise viral movements) then companies can at least learn how to respond quickly and effectively.

These social markers can be illuminated through both quantitative and qualitative efforts. Quantitative data, like that which resides in web analytics or social listening metrics, act as sign-posts for movements and behaviors of interest.

For instance, a spike in website traffic or social media metrics can be correlated with specific PR, launch or marketing activities. However to truly understand the rich complexities of social behavior it's imperative to also track a representative sample of conversations from a qualitative point of view.

Diving into this goldmine of data gives an organization an unparalleled bird's eye view into the individual and social minds of existing or target customers.

Conclusion

By creating an environment to explore the customer experience and map responses to the customer journey, you can accelerate the customer to buy your products or services and become an advocate for your brands. Using social media as a marketing channel, or engaging in conversation is a great first step, but becoming truly relevant to your communities is the way to foster long-term engagement.

Social media networks are a brand's front line into its most wired communities. Getting to know those people via comprehensive observation can help you find opportunities to engage and enchant, in ways you've probably never thought of.

These people can also be your biggest advocates and informants, even the overly critical ones. Listening and converting (by responding to questions, requests and concerns) are incredibly powerful tools in building a community that is enthusiastic about you.

But there are also many practical benefits, like the ability to provide quicker and better support, illuminate and educate potential customers, and, promote causes and efforts that are meaningful to you.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION