Written by Keith A. Quesenberry
To succeed in social media, it is important to have a customer-first, cross-discipline mindset. The consumer does not see a difference in disciplines when interacting with a brand in social media. The customer does not distinguish between marketing, advertising, public relations, customer service and sales activity. Social media professionals must be able to see beyond their discipline and work as a social care team.
Consumers’ needs and behaviors also change when they’re not actively seeking to buy, when they become interested in buying, and after they have become customers. These are different stages of the buying cycle. Marketers, advertisers, public relations professionals, customer service agents and sales representatives are often better at creating content and engaging consumers in various ways for the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase consumer.
Different employees from a business’s or organization’s various departments are best suited for communicating with customers in these different stages. Setting up a cross-department social media team can help generate customer engagement throughout the buying cycle to gain new customers, purchases, loyalty, and brand advocates. How can brands optimize each of these stages with social media monitoring through active listening, publishing, and response?
Silo-smashing in the pre-purchase stage. For the pre-purchase stage, seek consumers who are in the market to buy but who have not yet purchased. Listen to social media for people using the right keywords, such as mentions of the brand, competitors, industry, or specific products and services. Marketing and advertising professionals can create relevant messages, valuable content and social media ads to attract followers and monitor conversations to engage. Public relations professionals can look for larger industry or corporate issues, identify journalists or bloggers for media outreach and manage influencers. Social selling has become an important part of sales strategy. Thus, for a B2B company, sales professionals could leverage this stage by creating and sharing valuable content and answering questions to generate leads.
Smash silos in the purchase stage. In the purchase stage, look for consumers seeking purchase information. Marketing, advertising, and public relations professionals could help answer questions and provide additional information, but sales representatives may be better suited to deliver more relevant engagement. In a B2C company, the sales team may interact with customers on social media to facilitate a sale. With a B2B brand, salespeople could address the question of qualified leads, helping them toward conversion. Public relations professionals can also be proactive with social media crisis communication by addressing negative posts or reviews of the brand and its products and services, thus removing those purchase barriers.
Smash silos in the post-purchase stage. In the post-purchase stage, focus on keeping current customers happy. Listen for brand customers seeking help. Marketing, advertising, or public relations people can play a role, but resolving product and service issues is best addressed by customer service representatives. These satisfied customers are then likely to share their positive experiences, leave ratings and reviews, or make additional purchases, all of which help turn customer service into a marketing function. In B2B, sales representatives should follow up with existing customers – ensuring their satisfaction will lead to referrals and additional sales. Marketing, advertising and public relations can also encourage and leverage happy customers. Marketing can create customer loyalty and brand advocacy programs. Advertising and public relations can work together to get customer permission to turn positive posts into paid social ads. They can also develop user generated content campaigns and encourage ratings and reviews.
Smash silos for efficiency. Customized listening and response with cross-discipline teams in social media can help scale social media content creation and engagement. Content creation and engagement takes a lot of time and effort. A cross-discipline social care team divides the staffing and budget requirements across departments. Plus, uniquely meeting the different needs of consumers through all stages of the buying cycle can help businesses achieve their marketing, advertising, public relations, sales, and overall business goals more effectively. Distributing social responsibilities across departments to the most relevant people makes communication more efficient and effective, making the demands of frequent content creation and one-on-one social media engagement more scalable.
Smash silos but don’t lose consistency.
In creating a cross-discipline social care team, avoid social media management by committee. Decentralized social media, when no one department is in charge, tends to lead to inconsistencies in frequency, quality and voice. Forming a cross-discipline social care team is not the same as social media management by committee. Marketing or some other department should take the lead in overall management of social media for the brand. This is evidenced by the fact that 75% of social media activities are performed inside companies versus using outside marketing communication agencies.
Often it is the marketing department that leads brand content development, determines brand style and voice and sets business objectives that social media activities must help to meet. Yet, they cannot and should not manage social media alone. Smashing discipline silos will improve efforts for every department, outside agency and discipline involved in brand social media. The good news is that today many social media software solutions make it easier to integrate cross-discipline teams, from assigning tasks and level of authority to providing templates and content sharing. Then the effort becomes less about smashing silos and more about building better social teams.
Keith A. Quesenberry is an adjunct instructor in the WVU Integrated Marketing Communications master’s degree program. He is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Messiah University and author of Social Media Strategy: Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations in the Consumer Revolution. Before teaching, he spent 17 years as a marketing communications professional working with brands including Delta Airlines, Hershey Foods, McDonald’s, ExxonMobil, Choice Hotels, PNC Bank, Blue Cross, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Post and startups.