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Social Alignment: Ensuring Marketing Engages and Customer Service Serves


By: Rob Barnhart, Director of Marketing
Astute Solutions

In our November-released blog post, “Who Owns Social, Customer Service or Marketing,” I made the case that changing customer expectations have brought customer service and marketing together in a collaboration of Relationship Marketing where the customer dictates their engagement.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time last week in Chicago at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s WOMM-U event. The folks who attend WOMMA are a pretty talented group of marketers and talked quite a bit about social, brand, customer/ consumer engagement and, obviously, the impact of word of mouth.

The word I heard most often was engage. Marketers want customers to engage with their content, to have their content engage with customers, and to have their customers engage with each other. Social just happens to be a perfect channel for these messages to get distributed.

A recent infographic from the social marketing firm SocialBakers even illustrates social engagement in this formula for a Facebook engagement rate:

social media

Engagement and Customer Service are Very Similar - Yet Very Different

Marketing’s ultimate goal is clearly engagement; with you and your brand. Marketers have figured social out and it’s all about creating buzz. The more likes, fans, follows, clicks, etc, the better.  The more VIRAL the better. Social Relationship Management solutions are a perfect tool to measure this engagement and “get involved in the conversation.”

But there is a significant difference between engagement and customer service. When you walk into a retail store, for example, engagement (does the store merchandising draw you in, do you take the promotional flyer…basic marketing functions) and customer service (processing a return, working with an angry customer) can be two totally different experiences. It’s no different in the social world, but what often happens is ownership, then, is falsely placed on social in general instead of on how individual posts can be best handled allowing brands to effectively deliver the experience (engagement or service) their customers want. The result is significant and costly gaps in the customer experience.

More than half of service related tweets are ignored

According to, 58% of tweeters who tweeted about a bad experience have never received a response from the offending company. This really can’t be all that surprising. Marketing has been the driver for most social relationship management technology expenditures and we know their primary focus is engagement, not necessarily service.

But what happens when a customer has a complaint? Conversely, what is the impact of a happy customer? What about influence? Influence is a great indicator of engagement and certainly helps with delivery of your message…but influence can also stop a brand dead in its tracks.

When customers view social as a way to get resolution to their issues, the real question is how do we engage a customer socially while concurrently serving them? How do we find influencers who can help our campaigns extend their reach while, at the same time, respond to folks with equal influence who have an issue with a product? Both are critical to the social brand health of a company. Both have tremendous value. But most companies haven’t figured out how to do both.

Here are two examples:

social media

Marketing sees tremendous value in this and rightfully so. Social Relationship Management tools that can find these conversations, aggregate them, and provide analytics related to campaigns for keywords are sufficient and can effectively measure engagement and influence. But what happens when you get a tweet like this?

social media

Assume this person has 1,000 followers. Their influence is certainly significant and the negative nature of this tweet can have a lasting impact on future business. When all social interactions are routed to the digital marketing group or PR, are customers getting the follow up they need?

Marketing markets; Customer Service serves

We’re living in a social monitoring world that is pretty “one-size-fits-all.” Unfortunately “one-size-fits-all” doesn’t provide customers the experience they crave. The ability to send social interactions to the most appropriate “responder” is often extremely limited; at least in an efficient manner (is emailing a post to a service representative really a best practice?). You then have a solution that is probably solely configured for marketing needs or for customer service needs, but not both.

social mediaAnd if you can find a tool that sends posts to the appropriate agent, it is likely limited with which CRM or other business systems it can integrate so you’re stuck getting one you may not want. Like in the early days of CRM, for example, it isn’t enough to simply know who people are. It’s about getting them connected with the right person in the company to address their needs; whether that’s marketing or customer service.

Integrating social with other business systems, and routing interactions to the brand, marketing, or service representatives that makes the most sense shouldn’t be viewed as a “nice-to-have,” it’s mission critical. Then, you can finally move past who “owns” social and Relationship Marketing can flourish!

For more information, check out our newest infographic “The Recipe for Happy Customers and Raving Fans.”


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