MarketingSherpa’s latest benchmark survey shows what we already know – Social Media is the new Elvis.
Everyone wants a piece of marketing history. Just like during the dot-com gold rush of yesteryear, businesses are scrambling to keep up.
Every marketing department is clearing out a cubicle for their next social media star. However, unlike the dot-com hysteria, I believe social media is here to stay. However, it’s stealing credit from an old discipline that has been building and sustaining top companies and brands for years:
Yes, Customer Service IS Social Media
The social media revolution was supposed to be a customer service revolution. However, it looks like the long-suffering, empathetic, and meticulous professionals who build brands from the ground up may have been caught napping.
Or worse, customer service suffers from a serious case of modesty. I can see why this happened.
Customer service impresarios are buried in basement call-centers and only called when the crap hits the fan. Over the last 10 years, no one wanted to be attached to customer service, fearing that they would be next to hit the unemployment line when the outsourcing axe fell.
While they hid, social media become popular, and now it’s irresistible.
The irony is that social media is almost entirely about finding, servicing, and evangelizing customers. It has very little to do with the tools of the trade. In fact, smart innovators are finding that their best social community managers have spent years answering customer inquiries. Many businesses have been shocked to discover that their best social media pro works the reception desk!
When marketing chieftains are honest with themselves, they realize that their social media investment is really a hedge against being blindsided by their own customers. Social media is the proverbial “canary in the mine” pointing to a catastrophic breakdown in marketing or a subtle slip in the brand. The kicker is that this information has always been available in customer service, it’s just that no one thought to get serious about asking.
The Truth Behind the Numbers
I believe that the 68% of businesses who plan to increase social media spending will blow their budgets on more tools. They will hope that procuring fancy reporting, sentiment, and influencer graphs will help them tread water until they figure out this “social media thing.” I would suggest a different investment, a better investment: find the people who talk to customers every day and invest in educating them. Send them to conferences, insist they immerse themselves in online communities, give them permission to experiment with their own blogs and Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Once you’ve built an excited and seasoned team of “socially-enabled” customer service pros, only then should you turn your attention to equipping them with the shiny tools. Spending on tools before investing in people and expertise is a sure sign that your social media budget is heading to the “write-off” column.
This Applies to Small Businesses Too
If you have customers, then you have a customer service department. Be careful about separating caring for customers from your day-to-day marketing and social media efforts. These two areas are linked. It only takes one customer with a Twitter account to unravel years of careful branding and planning. Before you invest in the latest whiz-bang social media app, make sure you invest sweat equity into building a socially-enabled customer service process. Think of every help ticket or “help” e-mail as a bad tweet waiting to happen.
Time for a Customer Service Renaissance
I’ve been shocked by the lack of righteous indignation from the customer service sector. By now, I would have expected that these folks would have kicked down the door to a marketing meeting and elbowed into a seat between the digital and PR tacticians. Customer service not only deserves to be in the social media conversation but maybe even leading it as well.
Am I off my rocker? How does customer service factor into your social media planning?