The ubiquity of social media makes it an attractive tool for loyalty marketers, yet this burgeoning topic poses many questions about its potential fiscal impact and its ability to drive meaningful customer engagement.
That compelling theme was discussed on Tuesday when Loyalty360 and Strativity Group co-presented a webinar titled, Loyalty360 CMO Challenge Report: Promise and Potential of Social Media in Creating Impactful Customer Engagement.

Loyalty360 CEO and CMO Mark Johnson and Strativity Group CEO Lior Arussy were the featured webinar speakers and they discussed the intriguing Loyalty360 CMO Challenge Report: Promise and Potential of Social Media in Creating Impactful Customer Engagement.

“The level of trust in social media has definitely grown,” Arussy told attendees. “There’s a maturity out there. Organizations are developing better maturity and trust when it comes to social media platforms and is recognizing that their customer journeys and their brand journeys are not completely in their control. Now that the conversation is so public, they need to communicate with them in an authentic way.”

Loyalty360’s CMO Challenge Report on the promise and potential of social media brings together major brands and marketers from across a variety of industries with their thoughts and opinions on foundational questions surrounding the topic.

To gain a clearer understanding about how brands and marketers are navigating and leveraging a media landscape increasingly dominated by social media, Loyalty360 posed the following questions to CMOs and top executives in marketing and operations from December 2016 through March 2017:

How is social media being used differently today than a year ago?
 
How do you see it changing over the next year?
 
What new media are you using to drive customer loyalty?

For CMOs, it can be quite confusing because of so many available social media platforms.

“There’s a lot of hype out there, but we need to apply a discipline and thinking where it would be authentic for us,” Arussy said. “Let’s not over-emphasize where social media fits in the overall customer journey. It’s not replacing as much as it is augmenting and magnifying.”

Arussy said a company needs to first have a strategy that focuses on what it’s trying to achieve because it’s “very difficult to measure what it means to have 200,000 followers on Twitter or Instagram.”

The first call to action, Arussy noted: What your organization stands for and look at social media as operational measures that support that and create a correlation. Be courageous enough to know that there are things that will not work for you.

The biggest impact, Arussy explained, is having a CRM system integrated with a social media platform.
“See what happens in traditional channels versus social media,” he added. “Then we can start running real analysis and find out the value of a customer.”

Johnson and Arussy noted some key themes from the report and some supporting brand quotes.

Two-way relationship building:

Mary Hines, managing director, head of benefits, NPD, and global rewards, Citi Rewards: “In today’s hyper-connected world, consumers want to feel that they are engaging with brands in a meaningful way. Increasingly, they are engaging within social channels and there is an opportunity for us as brands to meet them there and interact in a way that fosters trust. If we maintain and ideally accelerate, these authentic interactions on social channels, we can continue to build upon this trust and ensure long-term loyal relationships.”

Renee Cacchillo, senior vice president, customer, brand & technology, Safelite AutoGlass: “Initially, our social media was mostly reactive. We addressed customer questions and concerns, but we didn’t proactively promote our brand or our services. In the last few years, we’re using social media to engage consumers by providing them useful content on the most popular platforms. How that will change over the next year will be going a step deeper and building an emotional tie to our brand through shared passion points.” 

“We see the biggest value where the CRM platform is connected to social media,” Arussy said. “That’s where the rubber meets the road, where the hype and the corporate strategies are intersecting to create value for the organization.”

Enhanced creativity:

Meredith Wenz, director of marketing, Auntie Anne’s: “What is great is that it is completely real-time, and we are able to direct message with people to find out exactly what is going on. Social constantly changes things that we are looking at. Are guests still on Facebook, or are they moving over to Snapchat? Especially when you look at the millennial audience. Where are these people and how do they want to communicate with us? So our social team spends a lot of time analyzing all of that data, and they really try to anticipate where our guests are going to be next. And then they use some of the tools that they have to continue to communicate with them in an effective way. In an effort to reach a younger audience, for example, we just launched our presence on Snapchat–you can follow us at AuntieAnnesSnap.”

Arussy said there is an opportunity for brands to leverage storytelling in social media.

“I love storytelling on social media,” Arussy said. “It’s a perfect, authentic way for this to happen. The challenge for organizations and brands isn’t to tell their stories. Create memories that your customers will tell the brands. We’re not moving our customers enough to the point where they want to share those stories. That’s the ultimate challenge.”

Arussy said brands need to ask strategic questions and tie in data sources to see if they are shifting behavior and, ultimately, bottom line results.

Interactive feedback:

Dave Mingle, general director, global customer experience execution and planning, General Motors: “We’ve created a connected global social media center of expertise that reports directly to the customer experience team. The reality is that social media goes global very quickly; a significant portion of our Facebook page’s traffic originates outside of the U.S. We’ve also placed a focus on responding to social media posts the same way we would if a customer had called into our customer service center. We have tools in place now where representatives can create a case based on a post and access the resources necessary to fix the problem. Social media is huge because while many people are still reluctant to dive into these channels, we have a huge demographic of Millennials who treat social as their first option when it comes to communicating with brands.”

Arussy shared a personal story that illustrates how brands need to integrate its social media initiatives.

“I had a bad experience with a New York City hotel,” he explained. “I am a Platinum member of this chain and I submitted complaints to the call center and to TripAdvisor. They (call center) considered upgrading me and social media said they would grant me two days free if I came back. Why weren’t people in the call center empowered to give me the same resolution as people on social media? I would caution organizations using social media as a customer service platform to unify their platforms between social media and the call center.”

Brands need to set expectations correctly, Arussy noted, by creating communities where people are responding to each other.

While certain brands might have an easier time in building communities, Arussy said that the intensity and frequency of the relationship are the driving force.

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