I have to be honest, the headline is a bit hypocritical. I spend most of my time helping businesses embrace the opportunity to understand customer needs and engage with them in ways that they appreciate and value. Contrary to popular belief however, everyday consumers aren’t flocking to social media to build relationships with their favorite brands or local businesses. The truth is that consumers are using the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, et al. to connect with friends and family. But, that’s not all. People also follow those who help them better understand the world around them, share their interests, or introduce moments of desired distractions.
In early 2011, IBM conducted a survey of roughly 1,000 consumers for its annual CRM Study. One of the questions asked of participants sought to shed light to the subject of why consumers were active on social networks. At the top of the list with 70%, no surprise, was the aim of connecting with family and friends. In second with 49%, consumers revealed that they were looking to stay connected to relevant news and information. Just behind with 46%, consumers expressed the desire for entertainment. And, last but certainly not least, 42% wished to share reviews of company or product experiences.
So where does that leave businesses? After all, the original Social Media Manifesto celebrated the opportunity that would eventually unite organizations and customers in a new generation of oneness, co-creation and innovation. How can organizations build a relationship with people if their primary use for social networks is to connect to the people they already know or wish they knew?
The good news is that consumers do wish to connect with businesses, just not in the way we might have originally envisioned. According to the same study 23% used social networks to interact with brands. Yes, consumers are connecting with brands, but it’s not as pervasive as we assume. To improve the number of connections and also increase retention, we must learn the reasons for why consumers connect with businesses, what they expect, and how to captivate their attention now and over time.
As consumer use of social media matures, their expectations grow. Your challenge is whether or not your organization can not only meet their needs, but anticipate and exceed them. This is the time to stop looking at social media as merely media in social channels and to start getting to know customers and their priorities and designing programs and a supporting infrastructure that socializes customer and employee facing roles, departments, and functions.
In August 2011, Lab42 surveyed Twitter users about their habits driving brand engagement. Believe it or not, 11% claimed that connecting with brands was the only reason they initially used Twitter. What does that tell us? People needed resolution or attention and Twitter represented the most logical choice for immediate satisfaction. On the other hand 10.6% stated that they do not follow any brands at all. Not all is bleak however. The study does indeed bring good tidings for worthy businesses.
30.6% of consumers follow 1-5 brands
19.6% follow 6-10
17.8% follow 11-20
9.8% follow an astounding 31-50
Depending on how you view these numbers, the glass is either half full or half empty. I believe that the state of the glass is determined by the actions surrounding it. For example, are we pouring or drinking from the glass? As Twitter is still growing, I see the glass is half full. Therefore, the time to invest in a sincere social media program that meets the needs of the various roles consumers may play in your business.
Theses roles include:
The studies above reflect that consumer engagement is only just beginning. Consumers are not just connecting because they can, they do so with intention and increasing expectations. No matter where you are in the social media maturity cycle, the questions you have to answer will guide your strategy and evolution. It’s never too late to integrate an intelligence system that constantly examines the 5 W’s and an H.E.:
The answers will help guide a useful, value-driven and an evergreen strategy and engagement program that attracts and retains consumers. Without careful or relevant engagement, businesses risk running anti-social campaigns that cause social blindness or far worse, disconnection via an unfollow or unlike.
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