Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Social Business - customer perception becomes business reality

IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) recently published very insightful report titled:  From Social Media to Social CRM.  Based on extensive survey results from both consumers and business executives, IBV uncovered significant gaps between what customers want and businesses think they want in their social media engagement.  Consumers desire tangible value such as coupons and discounts, while businesses feel that they want to learn about new products.  The table below highlights the significant perception gap.

Note: Consumer: N=1056; Business: Learn N=333, General info N=336, Submit opinion N=334, Exclusive info N=333, Reviews/rankings N=333, Feel connected N=331,
Customer service N=331, Submit ideas N=332, Community N=329, Event N=332, Purchase N=334, Discounts N=331.
Source: IBM Institute for Business Value analysis. CRM Study 2011.
Most customers want to use social media for personal reasons ... to connect with friends and family, not with companies. Consumers are willing to interact with businesses if they believe it is to their benefit.  Have you noticed that many successful social media campaigns often include some type of prize or incentive?  Even recent TV commercials feature stories where customers who tweet about their brand are surprised with prizes in coffee shops or airports.   While that is an interesting business tactic to introduce customers to social media, it can get expensive and have questionable long term returns.

Survey results show that businesses are three times more likely to think consumers are interested in interacting with them to feel part of a community.  It's clear that businesses are overestimating consumers’ desire to engage with them to feel connected to their brand.   In reality, these two activities are among the least interesting from a consumer’s perspective. 

So ... what does this data tell business executives?  First - they should assure that they are getting continuous direct consumer feedback about their social media initiatves.   Are they working?  What needs to change?  What is the perceived value to the customer (as compared to the expected value from the company's perspective)?  As the report suggests, businesses need to stay laser focused on customer value to avoid falling into the perception gaps they've uncovered.

If you are interested in the Social business area, this report is definitely worth the time to read.  I welcome your insights ... and perceptions :-)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Is Social Media Employee Training is overrated?

I stumbled across a very insightful blog post called Empowering Your Employees May Solve Your Content Problems.  It talks about the idea that employee training is overrated ... what is really needed is management permission to try things. 

Is employee training overrated?  My first reaction was that training is often touted as the mitigation to many social media risks.  Worried about leakage of confidential information?  Training is the answer.  Worried about inappropriate employee behavior that could impact your brand image?  Training is the answer.   You get the point ... training is often the answer to many Social Media concerns.  It can't be overrated ..... or can it?

When you think about training ...
  • is it about how to use Social Media?  The user interfaces are fairly self explanatory...  
  • is it about following Business Conduct Guidelines?  This should be about acting professionally, and not doing anything 'stupid', which should be expected of all employees...
  • is it about getting the majority of employees to have a consistent social messaging?  While this is valuable to a point, companies have to make sure their social conversations are not perceived only as glorified marketing channels...
If employees would take some time and 'jump in' to social media conversations, they would quickly be able to train themselves on most of the items above.  What is holding many of them back?   According to the referenced article: "What they need is ownership approval to practice, and the flexibility in their daily work agenda to have the available time to create digital content." 

So, maybe Employee training is overrated.  What IS needed is Management training ... at all levels. Maybe the focus should be on Social Media Management Training.  This does come up in various feedback, but is often not prioritized.  If we focus on Management Training, employee usage will follow.  Food for thought :-)