The Social Media MBA: Part 8: Social Media, Customer Service, and Branding

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Each term I teach my introductory course in social media marketing, students always bring up the topic of social media use for customer service functions and the risks associated with incorrect implementation.  Technology has brought upon many changes to the branding and marketing industries, specifically social media.  Tools such as social media platforms, forums, video sharing, and mobile allow interaction between the brand and the consumer, and interactions between consumers themselves.  This interaction is significant in that they can allow for real time dialog and can facilitate the exchange of experiences and preferences between consumers and to the brand as well.  Should this dialogue take place on a brands webpage or blog, and include its products, the opportunity for creating and increasing brand equity is substantial.  This sharing of information enables brands to gather and analyze data, and with that data, formulate strategies and policies that enhance customer satisfaction.

Given the environment today of on demand information, consumers can find a competitor in a matter of moments or a few click of a mouse.  Therefore, brands need to foster an environment conducive to building loyalty.  A satisfied customer becomes a loyal customer for a brand through continued positive experiences with the brand.  Meaning, improving customer experiences at each touch point influences the loyalty of a consumer.  Customers interact with sales staff, customer service, web pages, email, and even through social media.  Each of these interactions is an opportunity for a brand to improve the customer experience, create a relationship, and nurture a relationship.  Conversely, these are also opportunities to create a negative experience and drive the customer away.  By evaluating these touch points, a brand can identify what customers think about the brand, what they value about doing business with the brand, and ultimately build the foundation for a long term relationship.

An alarming trend in social media is the large amounts of brands that have active Twitter or Facebook accounts that do not respond to consumer interactions.  Utilizing social media as a tool to learn more about consumers is becoming a real advantage to business.  Those brands that choose not to reply to consumers are simply ignoring them, which is unacceptable.  Whether the brand is using social media for customer service purposes, research, marketing, promotions, or the like, they need to be prepared before launching a social media endeavor.  This means having the staff to address inquiries, pass them along to the right folks, and the know how to make the social media strategy effective.

Brands must understand that opening these lines of communication involves just that: communication.  Understanding consumers is essential for building strong brands and developing innovations and products that create new market opportunities.  With consumer insight, a brand is able to produce or improve products or services and formulate a marketing plan that is created specifically around the particular target market.  Marketers are increasingly presented with opportunities to tap into consumer insight via various channels of communication made possible by technology.  However, brands must know when to engage and how to engage to produce to most profitable outcomes.

Have your customers utilized social media to offer you suggestions that proved to be extremely valuable?

The views expressed are those of the author, and do not represent those of Texas A&M University-Commerce or Southern New Hampshire University unless stated explicitly.

Jessica Rogers
This monthly Social Media MBA column is contributed by Jessica Rogers. Jessica is a Dallas based Adjunct Marketing Instructor at Texas A&M University- Commerce and Full time Faculty at Southern New Hampshire University. She is currently working on her PhD in Business with an emphasis on Marketing; her dissertation research is focused on Social Media. Jessica teaches both undergraduate and graduate level courses in Marketing, including Social Media, and has 16 years of field experience in business and marketing before starting her teaching career in 2009. Jessica holds a BS in Business Administration and an MS in Marketing. +Jessica Rogers
Jessica Rogers

@DrJRogers

Social Media Marketing Professor @SNHU COCE; Adjunct @tamuc -Wife/mommy/PhD'16. #68/Top 100 Mktg Profs on #Twitter. Lover of #smm & hot wings; fluent in sarcasm
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Comments

  1. says

    You shed light on an important issue that many brands with a social media presence have thus far been missing: social media for business is a simultaneous marketing communication channel and a customer service channel. Think about the differences for employees working in these two vastly different roles (the marketer/advertiser versus the customer service rep). The marketer/advertiser is traditionally accustomed to creating and disseminating promotional messages to associate positive actions, emotions, or thoughts with their brand. In contrast, the customer service rep is trained to solve problems and deal with negative responses and situations. Far too many brands are placing their marketing/advertising people in charge of the social media channel. These folk are not properly trained in resolving issues. Moreover, these folks are likely to delete or ignore a negative comment or complaint posted on a firm’s own social media channel because it does not support the positive message or image they are attempting to disseminate. Some firms are beginning to realize this and are placing trained customer service reps in charge of monitoring and responding within social media channels. This makes strong business sense, as you discussed above, because resolving customer issues imports more consumer feedback into a firm, increases satisfaction, customer loyalty, and a number of other positive aspects. Yet, surprisingly many firms are failing to realize this as they delve into this newer phenomenon of social media.

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