Customer Engagement: Is Social Media Working for Businesses?


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Social media has emerged as the newest marketing channel for businesses in the past few years. It transformed the way many brands market and how they respond to consumers. But I wonder is it working and do people really engage with it?

Forrester’s blogger, Nick Elliot recently published a post proclaiming Instagram the King of Social Engagement. But this revelation followed by saying that the so-crowned king only had about a 4.21% post engagement rate. Even more revealing was that 4.21 % engagement rate was 58 times more engagement than a post on Facebook, and 120 times more engagement for each follower that a brand has on Twitter.

The Forrester study looked at the result of 2,500 brand posts across seven social networks based on interaction of more than 3 million users. The example Elliot gave was using a Red Bull Video from the previous month. Of the company’s 43 Million Facebook fans, only 2,600 of them liked the video. But the 1.2 million Instagram followers liked it 36,000 times. Elliot goes on to explain that while Red Bull is youth focused, they also observed great engagement for brands like General Electric and the Ford Fiesta, that both have a multi-generational appeal.

So it’s clear that people do engage with social media and it does work to some extent. But is also shows that when it comes to customer engagement all the social networks are not created equal. But how do you know which one is best for you and how to get engagement from your customers?

Making Your Social Media Experience More Effective

Whether the numbers of engagement are staggering or not, social media is a key part of your customer experience design strategy in today’s day and age. It needs to be built in, just like all the other channels of your customer experience. And like those other channels, there are some definite considerations that you must include in your strategy.

My book, Customer Experience: Future Trends and Insights covers social media strategy in more detail, but for the purposes of this post, we can drill down to these essential questions:

  • What is the Customer Experience you are trying to deliver in social media?
  • What are the emotions you are trying to evoke through your social media?
  • Is your Customer Experience deliberate in social media?
  • What do your customers really want from social media?
  • What drives the most value for the organization in social media?

Answering each of these questions can help you decide which channel is right for you, your brand, and the results you are trying to achieve. As you can see, they are the same questions we are typically asking about any part of the customer experience. In fact, this list of questions really reminds me of how you add “in bed” to the end of a fortune cookie fortune. Only instead of “in bed” we add “for social media” to the end of the customer experience questions!

All joking aside, this social media experience has its own expectations and distinguishing characteristics. Each of these questions must be answered with that in mind. But like the other parts of your customer experience, there are rational parts of the social media experience and the irrational (emotional and subconscious) parts of the experience at work, too. A robust social media engagement strategy takes into account all of these factors and uses a metric system to measure results.

Steve Sickel, Senior Vice President, Distribution and Relationship Marketing for IHG, the hotel group that includes Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, Crown Plaza, Staybridge, Candlewood and Hotel Indigo, understands the importance of having a focused strategy for your social media efforts. He had this to say in my book:

“We have a business objective we are trying to achieve, and that’s the way we approach our social marketing agenda. I think a lot of companies miss this… a recipe for disaster. We have a very practical approach to our social marketing agenda. We want to drive a business outcome—delivering incremental revenue into our hotels by engaging with our customers so that they shop with us more than the others we’re racing against.”

Sickel shares an example that shows how they used this strategy successfully. They had a special incentive to stay at their hotels that they shared with 150 of their US private community. During the six weeks of the promotion, that original audience of 150 people grew to thousands and drove $300,000 worth of revenue to their hotels. Clearly in the case of IHC, social media is both engaging and working. This example isn’t showing millions in revenue, but if you consider the ROI for the promotion, its return is extremely profitable.

Emotions Are Still an Important Factor in Social Media

It is increasingly important to consider the emotions that your social media strategy evokes for your customers. There are emotions that drive value and those that destroy value in customer experience. These emotions make up a huge part of why customers do what they do. These same emotions play an important role in why customers do what they do on social media.

There are three groups of social media experiences:

  • Personal Social Media experiences: This is the type of interaction designed to stay in touch with friends and family.
  • Customer social media experiences: These experiences are comprised of consumers wanting to use social media to research before making a purchase of a product or service. They might visit any number of websites or social media pages to get this information.
  • Business social media experiences: This is when a user is utilizing social media for business context. Examples of this type of experience include reading or writing a blog post on your area of expertise or focus, sharing industry updates or tweets to expand business knowledge, and/or connecting with people in your network for job opportunities.

No matter which group of type of experience you are using in your strategy, understanding all the layers of the psychological experience is critical to have an effective strategy. What users say they want from social media and what they really want from social media are usually two different things. You have to peel back the layers of research to understand the difference. Then once you understand the psychology behind their moves, you can use an effective strategy to capitalize on this for the benefit of your user and your organization.

I realize that this is just touching the surface of social media strategy and the importance of understanding what emotions drive and destroy value. We teach a program on this called, What Drives Value in a Social Media Experience that helps explain this all in more detail. If you want to download the presentation pdf , click here.

So is it working?

Social media is working and people do engage with it. But it still hasn’t reached a level of overwhelming numbers and millions in revenue. This can change over time as the medium matures and those that are using it refine their strategy and define their desired outcome.

So to answer my question in part, I would say yes it’s working. But don’t abandon all your other marketing strategies yet.

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in the following blogs:

Emotional Engagement and Brand Loyalty: Procter and Gamble Gets It…Do You?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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