Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Using social media as crucial business analysis resources 4: rethinking through messages shared and the nature of marketing 2

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 13, 2015

This is my fourth installment in a series on social media as a source of actionable business intelligence insight (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 217 and following for Parts 1-3.)

I focused in Part 3 on the multi-channel nature of the online conversation, that a business has to know of and participate in if it to effectively market and sell to an always on and connected, ubiquitously communicating and information sharing marketplace. And I discussed in the course of that, how people simultaneously use multiple channels, only some of which might seem to explicitly be social media in nature, in participating in these conversation flows. Then I said at the end of that posting that I would continue its discussion here where I would “more fully examine what this flow of conversation contains, as it is variously shared and assembled across a web of online, telephonic and blurred communications channels.”

I begin that by making note of a crucially important timeframe consideration. People tend to think through and remember the problems and inconveniences, and the miscommunications and other challenges that arise when dealing with a business and its representatives as a customer, or as a prospective customer. They might remember and think about positive service and positive interactions with business employees, and certainly if these experiences rise to a level that this customer would see as offering extraordinary extra value for them. But they tend to remember the negatives longer and more fully, so if as a business you want to capture the positives, and representatively as an accurate measure of your customer’s experience, you need to do that real-time and as part of the mixed marketplace-facing and consumer-to-consumer conversation.

Asking for immediate, point of sale feedback is certainly an important way to achieve this, with requests for feedback through text message reviews, and with opportunities to offer numerical ratings (e.g. on a one to five stars rating scale.) But it is important to remember that:

• When the overall marketplace conversation is immediate and real-time, these feedback opportunities need to be just as quick and easy to participate in,
• And any business-provided feedback and comment opportunities that are offered need to be limited in complexity and detail – they need to be pared down to the essential,
• And they should stripped of any information requests that might seem unduly intrusive and certainly when questions that consumers would view negatively are not being asked for specific compelling reasons.

It amazes me how many business-to-consumer conversation starters are in fact conversation enders, where for example a product registration form asks for information on household income and other personal data, that would prompt a customer to abandon this communications channel. This person has made a purchase of a specific product, so they at least see themselves as being able to afford it. Ask for intrusive further details of this type, and you risk leaving an impression that regardless of what you might overtly claim in a separate consumer protection statement, you look for opportunity to sell personal information about your customers as a marketable product.

Be immediate in how you communicate, and selective in what you ask from those who would connect with you, and be just as selective in what you share as information too. Present information that your customers would see as offering value to them, and by their evaluation criteria – so they will want to connect and want to stay conversationally connected with your business too.

• Make the content that you add to this conversation flow, an attractive invitation to engage in conversation with you, and one that would bring your customers and their friends to want to enter into this too.
• Offering next purchase discounts and other loyalty incentives, and offering opportunity to learn about upcoming sales and discounted pricing opportunities first, and before word goes out through central broadcast channels such as print advertising, or notice on traditional web 1.0 sites can only be part of this.
• And I have to add, these and similar approaches to customer engagement are all readily pursued by most businesses that operate online, so these approaches in and of themselves cannot create all that much competitive advantage.
• And it is important to note in that context that they are also in large part pre-social media and pre-interactive web in nature, so as your desired customer base becomes more and more actively engaged in real time conversation you need to go beyond simple, earlier generation business-to-consumer information sharing paradigms.
• Think social media and interactive, and act social media and interactive, and the key word in both halves of that is “interactive.”
• The most important message in your marketing and communications outreach might very well not be in what you say or how you say it, but in what your customers and prospective customers say and how they say it – and where and to whom.
• And your own most important marketing outreach activity can and increasingly is to be found in how you reach out to and enter into this ongoing conversation – so your business is not just passively standing by while others discuss it, and without taking any opportunity to help shape and influence any of this.

I offered an initial listing of issues to discuss in this series in Part 1, couched as a bullet point list of questions, and have at least started to address the first three of them up to here. I will turn to consider the fourth issue from that list in my next series installment, where I will begin to more thoroughly explore the role that the ongoing social media and related conversation can play in business intelligence gathering and in strategic and operational planning and execution – as a business seeks to understand and compete with its competition. So I will expand the range of this series’ discussion beyond that of an individual business and its marketplace, to begin to include a wider range of actors.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page.

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