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Ginger Conlon | February 10, 2012

The "Social" Tornado

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Social media is like a tornado, creating a whirlwind of open dialog between companies and their customers. This is how Get Satisfaction CEO Wendy Lea described social media to me when we recently discussed the topic.

"Social media gives customers the opportunity to shape the companies they care about," Lea said. As a result of customers' input through social channels, companies are improving their marketing communications, customer service, and even R&D processes. Lea cited a tech company that uses social media to gather feedback from its customers prior to product launches. In one case doing so saved the company $500,000 in what it would have spent marketing the new products, since there was already and engaged and enthusiastic segment of customers anticipating the launch. "It's all about transparency and being open," she said.

According to Lea companies can bolster the potential of social media by emphasizing two areas: social support and social CRM. Organizations can use customer interactions is social channels like online communities to help inform and populate their knowledgebases and FAQs, creating more robust sources of customer support information. Additionally, businesses should link social interactions with their CRM systems, where possible, to gain visibility into customers' behaviors, interests, and needs--and then use that information to inform cross-channel marketing and build advocacy and engagement, especially among their most valuable customers.

Ultimately, being responsive to customers when they voice concerns and post queries in social channels is where companies can build engagement and trust--not only with the customers they assist, but also with other customers in the community who see the responses, as well. Says Lea: "Customer service is the new marketing."

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