In the past few months we (InSites Consulting, sample and data collection partner SSI and translation agency No Problem!) collaborated on a survey on the integration of social media in the corporate world. The basis for this research was the 4 C model from my latest book, ‘The Conversation Company’. The objective of this model is to optimise a company’s conversation potential. The four components are Customer experience, Conversation management, Content marketing and Collaboration.
1. Customer Experience
Customer experience is about managing expectations
In order to generate positive conversations about your company, you have to do a little bit more than what the client is expecting. If you do exactly as they expect, the number of conversations will be limited. If you do a bit less (even if not much less) negative conversations will quickly emerge. Only 54% of companies are aware of this. Nonetheless a lot of companies are investing in a good basic service: 70% are training their staff in providing good customer experience.
Focus on the customer? Well, not quite everywhere yet
When problems emerge, 60% of the companies always choose a solution in favour of the client. In other words: 40% do not do that and choose a solution which suits the company. The latter will of course generate negative conversations. 40% of the companies do not allow the client to choose his/her own communication channel, but force them to use the company’s choice. 63% try to adapt their attitude and become open to feedback from the client.
Beware of the schizophrenic organisation
One of the dangers of the social media era is the focus on social channels for measuring the quality of services. Many think that a good service on Twitter will solve all other problems; of course this is not the reality. A mere 43% of the companies are currently offering the same service online and offline, which is very confusing for a client. They do not understand being helped properly via channel A and getting a poor service via channel B. One thing is for sure: your company will not get the image of a customer-oriented company this way, no matter how good your online service is.
Scoring on social media really does begin with a good customer experience
Everybody loves the fancy new options offered by the digital world. But no matter how nice and creative they are, if the customer experience is not good, these creative gems will not have the impact they deserve. A splendid exercise is to determine what the ‘minor sources of irritation’ in your company are. These are the little things which are annoying for a client that you, as a company, don’t really notice any more. Tracking these down and professionally removing them will help a lot! The next step is to clearly manage the expectations; try to think how you can do a little bit more than you need to do in every contact with the client.
2. Conversation Management
4 out of 10 companies listen to clients
40% of the companies observe the conversations of consumers about their brand and / or their sector. About 2 years ago this was 20%. Unfortunately the insights from these exercises are not always shared with everyone in the company. In a mere 28% of cases people share insights with the rest of the organisation. In other words: in many cases only a small rather isolated team is aware of this.
69% answer questions, 36% talk actively in the client community
Seven out of ten companies answer questions asked by clients on social media. About half of those, 36%, also talk proactively in conversations with clients. 57% of the companies allow their collaborators (a group of consumers who are actively helping out companies & brands, they co-create the future of a company in close cooperation with the management) to talk with clients on social media too. A striking detail is that only 34% use the real names of their collaborators in this service, even though it is common knowledge that people like to talk to real people. Making a company more human can only be done by letting real people do the talking. But apparently there is still too much fear of being authentic in online conversations.
Half of them manage the conversations themselves; the other half outsource the job
Half the companies take care of conversation management themselves, the other half outsource it. The main reasons for outsourcing are, on the one hand the lack of internal competencies and on the other hand avoiding an additional fixed cost. As far as I am concerned this does not really matter, as long as it is done by people who identify with the brand. The best option is of course to choose someone in the company. But the hard reality is that sometimes the people in a branch have been working for a brand longer than some managers.
We are stuck, so the gap is getting bigger
When considering the survey’s results, I do get the impression that the corporate world is rather stuck as far as conversation management is concerned. Furthermore the research teaches us that it are the strong companies who are willing to invest more and the lesser gods who have no investment plans. This will make the conversation gap in the corporate world become even wider.
3. Content Marketing
50% have a “content creation team”
54% of the companies have one or several collaborators who are responsible for content creation. This is a very high percentage in my eyes. In many cases this concerns limited updates on the social media channels, as only half the companies know what content domains they want to claim. A mere 39% have come up with a content agenda so far. In other words: most companies do not yet have a clear content strategy. In order to make the content process more effective, 45% have content management software. 44% employ an editor to check the quality of the content.
43% have a “content conversion plan”
Content marketing has several objectives. Positioning your company as an expert is one of them. A second important objective is conversion with a commercial impact. In order to succeed it is useful to have a content conversion plan. By content conversation plan I mean a plan which links the different channels so that at a given moment the viewer / reader gets to the place where conversion can take place. 43% of the companies have such a plan.
36% have blogging collaborators
Apart from a central content team it is interesting to have a team of blogging collaborators. Their content will often give clients and prospects an idea of what happens behind the scenes in a company. That is how outsiders can get to know the collaborators better. The collaborators will also get closer to the clients. Nonetheless only a minority of the companies are embracing this type of content marketing at this point.
50% are not open to input by the client
I still find these numbers hard to digest. Half the companies do not listen to clients. New ideas, new products and concepts are created solely by the company. At a new product launch it must therefore be extremely exciting to wait and see how the market responds…
One out of four companies has a client community
A quarter of the companies have a client community, either an open one and / or a closed one. These companies manage to integrate the client’s input into their decision-taking processes. By approaching the clients via a community, you go beyond a one-off action. Via the community you manage to engage people’s interest over a longer time span. These people are, so to speak, the ideal consultants for your company. They turn into collaborators you need not pay.
43% have a collaborators community
A strikingly higher number of companies have a community with collaborators rather than with clients. It is of course a very positive step to involve the collaborators in the management. Many company leaders therefore find it safer to do internal co-creation. These types of communities could be the first step towards an external version.
The client is not yet totally integrated in the decision-making processes
The survey is clear on this: only a very limited group of companies manage to structurally involve their clients. The main group do not involve their clients at all. Structural collaboration is probably the most difficult to implement of all the options offered by social media, as its impact goes way beyond marketing. It concerns R&D, IT, legal, sales and marketing. All processes have to be adapted to do it properly, so it makes sense that it cannot be implemented overnight.
Conclusion: we are not quite there yet
The numbers are clear: we are not quite there yet. Many companies are very willing and are taking the first steps in the right direction. There are not many companies yet that obtain good scores for all four dimensions. Optimising the conversation potential seems simple, but is more far-reaching than we tend to think.
If you would like to see all the details of our research, check out this slideshow:
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