Social media is a preferred channel for many consumers, as it is a place where they can feel free to express themselves, research a brand’s products and services in an informal manner, and even reach out to a brand and its leadership. For brands, social media is a place where they can learn how their customers truly feel about their products and services, more personally reach out to customers, and even learn how customers feel about their competitors. This article will look at the importance of a brand’s social media presence for customer experience.
Why Social Media?
Research by SmartInsights indicated that as of October 2021, 57.6% of the global population (4.55 billion people) use social media. The top social media outlets are Facebook, with 2.8 billion users, YouTube, with 2.2 billion users, WhatsApp, with 2 billion users, Instagram, with 1.3 billion users, TikTok, with 732 million users, Pinterest, with 478 million users, and finally Twitter, with 397 million users.
A GlobalWebIndex report revealed that up to 50% of social media members use social networks to research a brand’s products and services. More importantly, a report from Statista showed that 33% of those polled from the United States indicated that they’ve used social media to complain about a brand or its customer service.
Brand Culture and Social Media
According to Morgan Canfield, who manages social media accounts for CSI, a fintech, regtech, and cybersecurity services provider, social media is the first place that many consumers look to gain a better understanding of how a brand positions themselves and what exactly they provide. “While some might discount the importance of social for B2B marketing, people are still the decision-makers at those businesses. And it’s important they have a seamless experience in every interaction with your brand, including social media,” said Canfield.
Conversely, social media provides brands with opportunities to create two-way relationships with their customers while continuing to build trust and loyalty. “Brands should consider the customer experience when developing their social media strategies, striving to show customers a comprehensive view of the organization and what it does,” said Canfield. “Many consumers want more than just information on products and services; they want to know about a brand’s values and community involvement, along with informative, non-sales content. Social media offers a unique opportunity to provide this, and brands should make it easy to access this information with a regular cadence for posting, consistent messaging, and responsive customer service.”
The culture that a brand espouses may come in the form of content that is useful or entertaining to customers, often provided by the leadership themselves. “For CSI, enhancing the customer experience via social involves sharing helpful content and thought leadership articles from industry publications,” said Canfield. “We also share photos of employees giving back to the community, which serves as a way to showcase our culture of service both to customers and prospective employees.”
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Leadership Must Be Social Too
Social media is a two-way channel that facilitates direct communication with customers, and as such, this makes it a key aspect of the customer experience, said Gerard LaFond, SVP, digital practice lead at TEAM LEWIS, a communications and PR agency. Beyond that, when CEOs have a strong social media presence, companies rank higher in overall brand performance. “Despite that, the TEAM LEWIS 2021 Marketing Engagement Tracker (MET) of the top global 300 brands found that CEOs are still largely missing from social media,” said LaFond. “Only 6% of Global 300 CEOs have social media accounts and actively post company-related information on them. CEOs engaging on social media and having an active voice in ongoing social issues are important to the recruitment and retention of their youngest workers. TEAM LEWIS’ recent work for the UN HeForShe organization showed 66% of the Gen-Z cohorts believe that it is 'extremely/very valuable' for the CEO to be committed to a societal cause, and 47% of Gen-Z follow CEOs on their social channels.”
A brand’s social media presence has become one of its top customer touchpoints. As such, it’s more vital than ever that customers have positive experiences when they visit a brand’s social media channels. “A TELUS International survey found that when a company engages with its customers online (e.g. by liking or commenting on their posts) it has a significant positive effect on their relationship, with more than half (53%) of American consumers saying it would make them more likely to purchase from the company again,” said Jim Radzicki, chief technology officer at TELUS International. “Given the fact that 44% of Americans surveyed said they have posted on a brand’s social media sites, it is an important part of any social media strategy to invest in content moderation.”
Contrary to popular belief, negative experiences make more of an impact on the purchasing habits of customers than positive experiences do, because customers tend to remember negative experiences for longer. “A negative experience on a brand’s social media sites can severely damage the customer-brand relationship,” explained Radzicki. “This is especially true when consumers are exposed to fake or harmful user-generated content (UGC). According to the aforementioned survey results, 40% of consumers will disengage from a brand after only one exposure to fake UGC and 45% will lose all trust in a brand. For brands, the increased proliferation of toxic UGC since the onset of the pandemic has created additional pressure to quickly deploy content moderation strategies that protect their customers.”
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Social Networks Facilitate Community
Maria Pergolino, CMO of ActiveCampaign, a customer experience automation platform provider, shared that a brand's social media presence or social media ad may be the initial touchpoint that customers have with the brand. “Which means, what you post on your social channels can be the difference between connecting with your best customer or never meeting them at all. They will make an instant judgment based on the design and content that will determine whether they look into what your company offers further, or just continue their scroll. That’s why having a strong brand presence on social media is critical for any company’s success, no matter how big or small the brand is.”
Pergolino said that social media facilitates the creation of a community of people who will rally behind a brand, whether for the good or the bad, which is in and of itself, an incredibly useful mechanism. “Social media is a great place to cultivate such a community and nurture it. Not only can you do this with fun, creative content on your main social media channels, but you can also create Facebook groups to engage more intimately with consumers and answer questions,” said Pergolino. “At ActiveCampaign, our Facebook community group is full of customers discussing the product with each other and our team. It’s great to see all of the creative ideas and feedback we get from them. Part of a great customer experience is being where your customers are and not forcing them into the silos that your brand creates.”
Additionally, have no doubts that when customers are unhappy with a brand’s products, services, or representatives, they will rally to let everyone know about it on social media. As long as a brand has a customer support team that can respond and solve these issues, social media is still a positive connection with a soon-to-be-satisfied customer. “Another important reason to have a strong social media presence is the fact that you will never make everyone happy. Oftentimes if consumers are unhappy with a product or service, they revert instantly to social media to complain, making it critical to have a dedicated support team to provide instant customer support, answer questions and provide the best experience possible. Not only does this help the unhappy consumer, but to show others that you take customer feedback seriously and are ready to help when needed,” said Pergolino.
According to Michael Osborne, president of Wunderkind, a one-to-one performance marketing engine provider, social media has become a place where consumers discover new products, and it then becomes the channel that leads them to purchase those products. “It's important for brands to see how every touchpoint in a consumer’s shopping experience can lead to revenue. By offering consumers a personalized message via modern communication channels such as email, text, and DMs, that evokes an experience consistent with the retailer’s brand itself,” said Osborne. “The real trend today is adapting to the consumer and how they want to communicate with a brand, while always keeping their interests and needs top of mind. Becoming a brand that a consumer can rely on and is loyal to, matters more than simply having great products or active social channels.”
Social media has become the de facto channel where consumers are comfortable hanging out, sharing their thoughts and opinions, and now, doing research on a brand’s products and services. By providing customers with a place where they can interact with leadership while continuing to be themselves, brands are able to reinforce a positive culture while encouraging more social and relaxed conversations with their customers, which leads to a more positive emotional customer experience.