July 06, 2011, 5:21 PM — Companies of every kind are beginning to focus more on consumers and engaging with them on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. But the successful businesses, the ones that want to really make their social media efforts sing, are going beyond just gaining that simple visibility.
What those smart companies are doing, says Denis Pombriant, a Social CRM analyst with Beagle Research Group LLC, is turning their social media efforts into two-way, real-time communications with their customers.
"We usually think of social media as an outbound-only tool," where companies only send their messages to consumers, he says. But that's a huge mistake to make today.
"Instead, what you need to do is listen" to customers via social media and hear their messages loudly and clearly, he says. "What's hard about direct mail and other older technologies out there is that were no good, inexpensive ways to capture the voice of the customer in the past. But with social media tools, if you listen, you can learn a lot about customer demand, biases and more."
To do that, enterprises that are building and growing their social media efforts need to also bring in great analytics tools to collect customer social media data, parse it and use it to grow their businesses even more, Pombriant says.
"Analytics, in my opinion, is the killer app for social media," he says. A Harvard Business School study last year found that by a two to one ratio, more organizations were using social media tools without incorporating analytics tools that could teach them what it all meant, he says.
"What it points to is that there are a lot of people out there who are telling things to their customers rather than listening to their customers," Pombriant says. "I think that the important thing to do is to make this a closed loop and listen as well as tell, to collaborate."
The bottom line is that simply embarking on a Social CRM strategy is not a panacea, according to Pombriant. You have to really do the work to make it a valuable addition for your company.
One thing to look at is "sentiment analysis," which allows companies to find out what customers think about them in the marketplace. "According to the Harvard study, most companies don't know what their customers are saying about them and where they are saying it," Pombriant says.
Why is this important?
"Because when you start doing that, you begin to get a much clearer picture of your customers and you become more intimate," Pombriant says. "And when you become more intimate, you're more likely to make that second or third sale over time."