While it appears to be a straightforward value proposition, organisations must approach social networking through an elaborate plan that is not solely focused on marketing and public relations (PR), nor used as a means of asserting control over conversation, according to Capgemini digital transformation lead, Ben Gilchriest.
Gilchriest said that the key challenge presented by social media, which has the potential to transform it to become counterproductive, is the fact that it is simple to switch on and utilise.
“Because it is very easy to switch on and the benefits of it appear inherently obvious, most companies will jump into it without going through a process of thinking about whether they should do it in the first place,” he said. “If they decide to, it becomes about how they actually manage it so it has an explicit and clear purpose to end customers.”
Deciding on which social media form to approach is just as critical; both Facebook and Twitter, for example, have features which act as pros and cons for varying contexts – each have their place. In some scenarios, Gilchriest believes that social networking altogether may not be ideal for business to customer (B2C) interaction.
Organisations looking to harness social media’s value propositions must formulate strategies, or perhaps policies, which incorporate it as a channel that is integrated across the business, rather than an external entity that is ‘just there.’
“When companies are setting up a retail store, they spend a lot of time thinking about it,” Gilchriest said. Store layout, merchandising, visual management, and sales processes are a few examples.
“Social media is just as important to think about, if not moreso because it is extremely visible,” he added. “Remember where you are, remember you are representing your company, and think before you post.”
While marketing and PR content can appear the go-to content driver, social media policies should not revolve around branding alone.
“Typically, most organisations will think about social media within just the marketing frame; it’s about brand,” Gilchriest said. “Others will move it into service; they will use it as a concierge mechanism for responding to customers’ needs and solving problems.”
Services have gained prominence over the past six months particularly, with Australian companies having dedicated resources to responding to customer issues as the enormous number of local social network users are realising that it is a quick means to be heard. As a result, many companies have been forced to go into damage control on the back of the influx of complaints, enquires, and so on.
Gilchriest acknowledges that organisations’ efforts to minimise the vocality of issues and migrating them to a private medium (inbox conversations on Facebook, for example) are somewhat instinctual, but at the same time said that they may not be ideal.
He said that there is no single means of resolving customer concerns, but allowing the community to interact and discuss is a positive.
“Trying to create a huge level of control is quite difficult, and to an extent counterproductive,” he said. “As a platform,[ social media] is meant to be very natural and human, and if you turn it into something that’s mechanistic and call centre-link in its approach, then it removes that from the dialogue and people pick up on it quickly.”