We continually talk about how to keep customers engaged after they “like” or follow you online. A new study by that Chief Marketing Officer Council sheds some light on the issue. According to the “Variance in the Social Brand Experience” study, consumers expect to be offered unique experiences, savings and promotions as a continuous part of their social engagement.

Social Media Variance is an Understatement

The CMO Council research targeting both marketers and consumers was conducted in partnership with Lithium, a leading provider of social customer solutions. What they found may give marketers a run for their money. But it may also inspire them to integrate social media into their overall marketing efforts.

According to the study, among the 120 marketers surveyed, 52% said their brands have enjoyed greater influence thanks to their presence in social networks, while only 17%  said that social media is fully meshed, aligned and integrated into the overall marketing mix. Doing that is not as easy as it sounds, however.

Consumers want to feel valued by their social brand engagements and are increasingly turning to peer communities for reviews, conversations, shopping selections, product assistance and lifestyle advice. So how do marketers keep up so that customers feel valued, while maintaining costs and expectations so that engagement converts into revenues?

Getting on the same page is a good start. The study points out some obvious incongruencies between what consumers want and what marketers think they want.

What Consumers Want:

  • Be eligible for exclusive offers (67%)
  • Have the opportunity to interact with other customers who share a consumer’s own experiences (60%)
  • Gain access to games and contests (65%)

What Marketers Think Consumers Want:

  • To be heard (41%)
  • News or information about products (40%)
  • Incentives or rewards (33%)
  • Special savings or experiences exclusive for followers (27%)

Such differences beg the question -- do marketers use social media as consumers? Social media or not, the expectations outlined by customers aren’t that different from what any customer experience should provide.

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Additionally, feeling valued isn’t just about receiving special discounts and exclusive offers. It’s also about being listened to. The majority of consumers expect answers within 24 hours; in fact only 12% are willing to wait days for resolution of support issues, while 22% of consumers want instant gratification and 19% are looking for resolution within hours.

These insights lend itself to the community manager discussion. Many readers asked whether the tasks of the community manager would be expected to carry over into other positions within the enterprise. Such results indicate that the line between marketing and community management is blurring already, but curiously, marketing departments seem slow to adapt.

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Social customer service is not high on the list of priorities for marketers still looking to solidify their social strategy. The study showed that only 4% of marketing respondents are leveraging social media to provide faster handling and better customer care.

The ball is in the marketers' court, but if they don’t play well under pressure, customers won’t sit around and will move on to companies who can deliver what they want, when they want it and where they want it.