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Meaningful Challenges Still Apply to Social Media and Social CRM

Social Media’s impressive rise comes with meaningful challenges in the Social Media world. One challenge is that whereas good information travels quickly, bad information can travel even more quickly. Consider these faux pas when Social Media began to take hold in the marketplace:

  • New York City Police Department—In April 2014, the NYPD asked Twitter users to share photos of themselves and NYPD officers, using the hashtag #myNYPD. But just a few days after this initiative, the NYPD was forced to rethink its Social Media strategy after users deluged this hashtag with inane and profane photos of NY police officers.
  • DHL Express—In October 2014, DHL asked for “likes” within its Facebook account regarding recovery wishes for racecar driver Jules Bianchi’s injuries caused by a crash in the Grand Prix. Face-book users immediately criticized DHL for the move, labeling it “tasteless” and “inappropriate,” prompting the company to delete the post and issue an apology via Facebook.
  • American Apparel—In late 2012, American Apparel offered a 20 percent discount on all items as a means of alleviating boredom among shoppers during the hurricane season. Perspective customers worldwide were appalled, after the destructiveness of Hurricane Sandy, and took to Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Media websites to condemn the ill-considered marketing message, thereby causing management a huge PR nightmare.

Successful Social Media initiatives are grounded in a strategic business context whereby the organization looks to Social Media as toolsets that support one of three core business strategies (these strategies were initially proposed by Michael Treacy in his co-authored book The Discipline of Market Leaders):

  • Product Leadership—Companies such as Procter & Gamble (P&G) use Social Media ideation tools to facilitate the creation and formulation of new ideas within Social Media forums that subject matter experts (SMEs) participate in. P&G has taken the lead in utilizing ideation platforms, with more than one-third of its product innovation ideas being generated in these platforms.
  • Operational Excellence—Social Media may also be used to cultivate operational excellence by having end users provide customer/technical support within organizationally set guidelines and proper training, thereby helping to drive down costs and increase efficiencies. Hewlett-Packard uses this technique effectively—it has saved in excess of $10 million by integrating Social Media into its call center/customer service offerings.
  • Customer Intimacy—Social Media can also be used to boost customer intimacy by creating a two-way dialogue with constituents (such as customers or distribution partners) with the objective of deepening customer relationships and increasing an organization’s growth engine. Dozens of best-in-class B2B and B2C organizations (for example, ExxonMobil and Amazon) are currently using Social Media to achieve customer intimacy.

Of these three business strategies, the biggest impact of Social Media is on customer intimacy. I recommend applying the Hub and Spoke Integrated Social Media model to make this impact (see Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 The Hub and Spoke Integrated Social Media model

Organizations use publically available Social Media tools such as Facebook and Twitter with this model to drive traffic to their corporate website, which in turn is the best tool for driving traffic to their private Social Media community. A private Social Media community is where the company sponsors SME blogs, as well as community forums, best practices, polls, and contests of interest to their customers and prospects. This integrated Social Media approach helps to build the two-way dialogue between organizations and customers. It also allows organizations to harvest comments and other relevant information noted on their private social community and places these insights into customer and prospect profiles located within the organizations’ Social CRM system. This allows them not only to have transactional information about their customers (for example, what they have purchased in the past and when), but also sentiment information (for example, what they like or dislike about doing business with the organization, opportunities they would like the organization to pursue, and so on).

For example, an organization might choose to invite customers and prospects to a private social community discussion forum to learn more about what products or services its customers may be interested in. It can then harvest appropriate information from the forum and enter this information into individual customer profiles contained within the Social CRM system for use when marketing, selling, or servicing these customers or prospects. The organization can also use the data analytics tools (either within its Social CRM system or external data analytics tools) to understand trends gathered during forums, polls, contests, and so on, and feed these results back to the private social community in the form of information, products, or services, thus further enhancing the two-way dialogue.

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