Knowledge is power
When the 17th Century philosopher Sir Francis Bacon said: “knowledge is power” he couldn’t have possibly imagined the enormous volume of information that businesses in the 21st Century work with day-in, day-out.
With the widespread adoption of Internet-based technologies we have witnessed a massive surge in the number of customer channels and touch points, with Pinterest being the latest to burst onto the scene. This has in no small measure resulted in a huge growth in the amount of data businesses can collect regarding customers and their behaviour. And it can now be done in real-time.
Ok, let’s take a step back. Quite clearly there’s been a macro trend: the explosion of information published outside the company firewall. Previously, companies have mined the data that resides within their firewalls, through BI, ERP, CRM solutions and so on. This demand led to the growth of some of the largest and most successful companies in the world – the likes of Oracle and SAP. But this is all introspective – highly valuable, but it stops at the firewall.
In contrast, the information outside the company firewall is describing the environment in which the company operates. It gives incredibly rich insights into a company’s customers, competitors, industry trends, stakeholders, partners and so on. Businesses must start using this wealth of information to glean what I like to call: digital intelligence.
Too many seem to think that they can tick the social media box by simply broadcasting their messages and content to the world. That infuriates me!
Do you really care about your customers?
Social media for businesses and brands is very much like the age-old business tenet of “know your customer”. Any organisation that really cares about their customers should listen to their opinions, pain points or feedback. If you don’t, you’ll be left behind.
Back to today’s world…what does this mean? It means constantly collecting and analysing massive volumes of data – listening to what’s being said out there on the Web. Then they must use that knowledge to build 360-degree digital profiles and engage with their audience one-on-one.
All organizations can benefit from it – having real-time knowledge of what the target audience wants is incredibly powerful. It should also go way beyond the domain of the Comms & Marketing depts.
Critically, it helps brands to gain intelligence and therefore improve and strengthen customer relations, feed into product development, assist HR and recruitment, track the competition, and keep on top of market trends and opinion.
Power to the People – the democratised Web
The sheer scale of social media highlights its disruptive nature and shows how the normal rules of customer engagement have been changed forever. Everyone can voice their opinion across a multitude of social networks and platforms – it’s truly democratised the Web. It’s the first time people are able to voice their opinions as they like, to whom they like.
And whether you like it or not – some of those conversations (good AND bad) are most likely about your brand.
The common expression “the customer is always right” is now even more relevant with the advent of social media and the power the consumer now has.
Putting the Customer first
As such, the customer needs to be at heart of all online strategies. Whether this is building a 360 degree profile of an individual’s digital footprint; segmenting their online target audience in terms of demographics and geographies; building online communities to encourage debate and discussion about topical issues; or building landing pages and microsites to direct traffic to for a particular campaign; maybe a lead generation campaign to push qualified leads down the sales funnel. There really is so much that can be done.
Taking this further, social engagement should become a staple part of any social strategy diet. It’s about two-way communication. And for businesses, this means converting conversations into customers.
The rules of engagement have now become the rules of social engagement. It’s about working out the first steps a brand needs to take to engage the social public. Knowing the difference between responsive and proactive engagement – when to engage and how.
But for me, getting the process and strategy right is one thing. Most importantly, it’s about being willing, agile and bold enough to adapt to changing consumer demands.
After all, as Darwin said, if you have the knowledge to continually be able to adapt to your changing environment, you will survive, grow and prosper.