Wake up call: social media is more than just communication, it’s customer engagement. If you’re not engaging with customers using social media, you’re not maximizing your effort.

Research from Alterian’s Engaging Times Summit has revealed that social media is the biggest factor changing how marketers approach customer engagement. Enter: a new type of customer engagement strategy for how to best handle brand interaction.

The study explored the shifting marketing landscape and increasing importance of true customer engagement and surveyed more than200 marketing professionals at Alterian's Engaging Times Summit in August, 2009.

Addressing Customer Engagement

The Engaging Times Summit held recently in Chicago and hosted by Alterian, addressed issues related to marketers and theintegration of analytics, creative, execution and technology skills into marketing strategies.

Such skills are the new tools of customer engagement that aim to create a dialogue where channels, media and data are given an “empirically led opportunity to inform how to engage the customer in a dialog vs talk at the customer in a campaign”.

Among those surveyed, forty-eight percent of respondents indicated that social media is the channel that will have the most impact on the customer experience. As well, it will be the leading area to invest in, ahead of email, which ranked second.

Rethinking Marketing Techniques

In short, social media is forcing organizations to radically rethink and evolve their marketing techniques.

Learning Opportunities

Looked at closely, the research shows that cultivating customer relations goes beyond traditional methods and has given way to new content and on-demand services. Sixty percent of participants think that existing techniques for understanding consumers needs required significant improvement.

While marketers are recognizing the impact and influence of social media on the customer experience, and that it is the channel which businesses expect to have the greatest effect on the customer experience in the next year, it’s yet unclear if their actions will follow accordingly.

Acknowledging its return on investment may help. It’s not lost on marketers that customers who engage actively with companies and advertising via social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can add up to big profits, not to mention brand loyalty. However, marketers, like many other industries have obstacles to overcome.

Implementing a New Customer Engagement Strategy

Respondents indicated that the integration of online with database marketing and offline channels, as well as the lack of ability to assess or manage internal infrastructure and culture challenges and the integration of all the technology to power the cycle as the biggest factors in implementing a customer engagement strategy.

Hardly any of these challenges are insurmountable. If the marketing industry is really serious about their revelations, they will will have no choice but to adapt resources at any cost or risk big losses in revenue and brand loyalty.