When we are talking about megatrends – the ones that change your market surroundings fundamentally and challenge your strategic fit and competitiveness, I guess it’s fair to say that megatrends at the moment are Big Data, Cloud, social media and also mobile.

However, they are all fuelling an even bigger megatrend. I thus believe that neither social media, Big Data, Mobile nor cloud are the biggest trends. In my dialogue with industry-leaders, what really matters is:

How can we change our ability to create and capture the value of understanding, listening and engaging with our customers on social media and thereby gaining new market shares and earnings?

The Age of the Customer

The biggest trend that evolves across industries points at new terms called ´The Digital Customer´ and ´The Age of the Customer´, meaning that customers today are more empowered than ever before. On the other hand, I guess it is not as much a trend, as it a fundamental shift in how we behave, communicate, shape opinions, and decide what to buy, as well as our personal preferences.

Customers, individuals, groups and stakeholders are more informed, sharing content and opinions online than ever before. More than 2.5 billion pieces of content is shared every day at social media; and people watch their mobile devices over 150 times a day, and thousands of YouTube videos are uploaded every minute.

So I guess my first question is: How much are consumers talking about different products and services? How much are they sharing experiences, suggesting and evaluating features of a product, for example. Let me think – I would say ´Constantly and a lot´.

The reality is, that your brand and competiveness is determined by every split of a second to large degree out there in the social media jungle.

My second question is: How much do you want to be out there, participating in the social media with your customers? In my opinion, you already have a social presence. In fact, most companies have a social presence in today’s social media world. However, surveys repeat, that social listening & engaging-related-activities lack a strong executable and cohesive digital engagement platform. In fact, 4 out of 5 companies across industries identify their social media strategy and platform as in-mature.

So, what does this cost you here and now? It surely costs real cash flow, market shares, extra costs and bounded earnings.

In short, I see four compelling business reasons to act and leverage social listening and engagement:

  1. Understand your customers, preferences and your competitors
  2. Convert leads and interest to sales and revenue
  3. Convert potential complains to proactive customer experience
  4. Nurture your brand

Sales, Marketing & Customer Service

My business dialogues with marketers clearly proves that what they overall seek is to gain and leverage real-time understanding of their customers and their businesses across the social media web.

Marketers want to capture real-time brand & product sentiment across their markets and geographical boundaries. Moreover, they want to gain insight and learn about, what people really think and feel about your business. This goes for both regional and global companies.

Instead of evaluating ROI of marketing and brand campaigns – you ask for real-time measuring and performance KPIs for the effectiveness of your campaigns.

When it comes to sales, I often hear them say that they need to be faster and better than competitors to identify and act on social buying signals, to monitor their strategic accounts to proactive engage, and to leverage real time what the social web reveals about their competitors.

And Customer Service is facing absolutely new market surroundings. Customers expect a response time that is very short. For example, 2 out of 3 customers expect a response time under 1 hour on Twitter. This calls for social sentiment analysis, real-time information across languages, and real-time case resolution, so companies are being able to identify and solve incidents earlier and better than competitors.

A concluding note

My advice is simply to get started and allow mistakes to happen. Do not use years of forming your social engagement strategy. Instead start transforming social interactions into an end-to-end customer experience. By that, I mean that you need to:

  1. Manage your brand reputation,
  2. Nurture influencers,
  3. Measure campaign effectiveness,
  4. Act on social buying signals,
  5. Track your competitors and
  6. Create value on customer incidents and issues.

Ask yourself, what would you like to get real time insights about? What kind of details are valuable to gain when we talk about your products or services, and how they are perceived on social media? And likewise about competitors? Or looking back, ask yourself – what would I and my colleagues have liked to known, to avoid a situation or being able to be proactive in sales, marketing or customer service.

The world has changed. We are all out there in the cloud, on our mobile devices, producing big data, buying, expressing, tweeting, uploading, and sharing experiences.

Customer likes to be understood, don´t we all?

Participate in our event: ‘The Complete Customer Journey – from Social to CRM’ hosted at Microsoft location in Lyngby, Denmark the 7th of December.

Read more about Microsoft Social Engagement here.

By Michael Schmidt

Market Manager