By adaptive - December 6th, 2011

Social media can be your most cost-effective marketing tool. However, because social media invites conversation, ensuring your business understands how to use these interactions to create loyal cus...

Social media can be your most cost-effective marketing tool. However, because social media invites conversation, ensuring your business understands how to use these interactions to create loyal customers is vital.

The social media that your company is currently utilising is not simply a new marketing channel. Businesses that are having commercial success in this space are moving from using the new tool as a loudspeaker to developing conversations with their customers.“I worry about [social media] ‘campaigns’ because they cost a lot and are discrete, finite occurrences,” says Manish Mehta, Vice President for Social Media and Community for Dell. “They need to be aligned with a bigger relationship you want to build with a customer.” What is clear is that you must understand what works and what doesn’t before you start up a social media ‘conversation’ with your customers.

Customers spread their message faster than you can

“Quite simply, a brand’s customers, partners, affiliates and employees are on social networking sites now – and if the brand isn’t defining its own social presence, they will. To take control of its social reputation, a brand needs to encourage these social players to become its advocates, promoters and customers.” says Niki Lathwell, Director of Lathwell & Associates.

Customer service has always been important, but it is even more so in the digital age. A study by Chadwick Martin Bailey shows that 60% of Facebook fans say they’re more likely to recommend the brand since becoming a fan.

Writing on, Graham Charlton notes: “The channels that customers are using to complain are changing too…20% take to social media sites to have a good old moan to friends and family”. A report from Techcrunch shows that 82% of US consumers give up on brands after bad customer service and 79% talk about their bad experiences in public.

The conversations that your company has with its customer base should be monitored for negative comments, as ultimately your business’ customers are its best brand advocates. It’s easy to monitor reactions to your brand on Twitter either by using a service like Hootsuite, Monitter or Tweetbeep, or an online brand reputation management service like InternetCM.

Improving customer service

Twitter provides excellent opportunities to improve customer service, taking support requests, involving staff and putting over a positive brand image with a relatively low outlay.

Dell definitely ‘get it’. Dell has a dedicated Social Media team with a coherent strategy. According to Forrester Research, Dell generates more than 25,000 online conversations every day co-ordinated through its Social Media Listening Command Center.

Dell understands that one size doesn’t fit all, so they have a presence on many different social media platforms from Facebook and Twitter to Google+, Flickr and their own Dell Communities. This makes it possible for them to approach their business, enterprise and consumer markets differently, with multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and online community forums for consumers and enterprise customers.

This allows them to interact with consumers in a more personal way, while giving technical staff the support they need quickly and efficiently. All their platforms are regularly updated and visited by Dell staff, who offer call backs and problem resolution, as well as offers and information.

Traditional campaigns benefit

There’s still a place for the traditional one-off campaign, especially for new product launches and seasonal pushes. However, even for companies without a dedicated team, paying attention to social media increases your chances of success.

“Social media is a great marketing tool. It enables us to keep our clients updated about what we are doing and how we can help them… Perhaps the greatest thing is the speed … I posted an advert and within a minute I had an enquiry; I challenge any newspaper to beat that!” says Tim Catterall, Partner at Sanderson Weatherall LLP.

Know your audience

Your customers can be your best sales force, but they can be fickle. To persuade customers to join your community, you need to give them content they can’t get elsewhere and make them feel part of something special. As Devin Redmond, CEO of Social IQ Networks puts it: ”In the realm of the social web, a brand needs to go further, and also give followers on different social platforms the ‘inside scoop’ – something that gives them that special ‘insider’ status.”

Nestlé is experimenting with a new online community, The Nestlé Marketplace. A report to Social Commerce Today explains that Nestlé wants to engage customers as brand advisors, and invite ideas for new products and uses for existing products. They want to provide a truly interactive experience that includes recipes, tips and a shopping list manager.

There are a few key takeaways:

  1. We all need to be aware of who our customers are, and what they think and feel about our brands and,
  2. If we are going to engage these consumers directly through social media, like Dell, we need to do it right. It needs to be a long term relationship, not a short term campaign.

In the words of Collette Mason, author of Social Media Success in 7 Days: “Many business owners and entrepreneurs worry about getting started with social media, so worried they keep putting it off. For me, the biggest mistake you can make is not getting involved in the conversation in the first place.”


If you would like to learn more about how to leverage all the opportunities social media offer you, then check out our Corporate Social Media Summit in New York. Taking place on the 13th - 14th of June, the business-focused conference is designed to give corporates industry-leading insight and best practice from leading practitioners working at large companies today. For more on the New York Summit, head to 


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