Remember the good old days when customer interactions were between you and the customer?

Those days are over. It used to be easy. They bought your product, took it home and liked it or they didn't. Sometimes they'd call to complain, but that was between the customer service rep and the customer. Now dissatisfaction or appreciation of a product or service is between the customer, the business and all of their friends and followers. Competition is high, choices are plentiful and the end product is only part of the package.

So why do businesses think they can still ignore what their customers say on social media?

Jan Rezab is out to change that. 

Jan is CEO of Socialbakers, a social media analytics firm that tracks the level of customer engagement on social media platforms. He believes that social media is the marketing game in today's world, saying "it is cheaper, more targeted, more engaging and more effective than traditional channels." 

From Liking to Engagement

But it isn't just about listening to your customers or gathering followers. Those are just continuations of the one way method of communications used in the past. The key to the game in Jan's mind is engagement. He defines engagement as "communicating effectively so that your audience (your customers) becomes involved enough to interact with you and your brand," or as Socialbakers terms it, being "socially devoted" to your customers.

Content plays a key role in this engagement. By providing customers with unique, compelling content and sending it out on the proper channels in a timely way, businesses differentiate themselves from competitors and start conversations. This is the evolution of traditional marketing in Jan's eyes, "Similar goals, different channels, more interactive customer behavior with a greater willingness to participate." 

It Doesn't End When You Get the Customer in the Door

Engagement doesn't end at the point of sale. It is a conversation that needs to be continued throughout the customer journey. We've all heard the statistics of the higher rate of return from retaining customers than acquiring. Jan agrees with this strategy:

Social media is a key customer service channel; if handled correctly, social media can become one of the key drivers for companies' positive reputation growth or product advocacy and savings on call center costs. Social media can and in many instances already do play a role in acquiring new customers. However, before any brand goes down the route of acquisition, we'd recommend to get the basics right and ensure current customers are being attended to at least as much as new ones."

As for the future, it is just becoming clearer that businesses who ignore social channels are doing it at their own risk. If you want to be where your customers are, you will develop a social media strategy (if you don't already have one) right quick. I'll give Jan the final word:

Given that social media channels are still growing and more and more people are connecting, it's only logical that these channels will be more and more interesting for brands. Any successful marketer or communications professional has to have social media skills simply because the vast majority of their target audience spends a significant amount of time on social networks."