How Social Media Has Changed The Way That We Engage Consumers

Over the past few years, the pervasiveness of social media in our society has desensitized us to what's really happening. While it's easy to take social media for granted, we shouldn't forget the many benefits that these platforms afford us.
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Over the past few years, the pervasiveness of social media in our society has desensitized us to what's really happening. While it's easy to take social media for granted, we shouldn't forget the many benefits that these platforms afford us. From marketing and advertising to customer service and everything in between, social media has had a quantifiable impact on the way businesses engage consumers.

Social Media and Customer Service

The impact that social media has had on modern customer service is undeniable. Customer service has always been about connecting businesses with customers, and social media facilitates these relationships in a natural manner that's conducive to timely assistance.

"Companies are better equipped to handle more customer issues with the help of social media, making the process faster and easier for everyone involved. Now the majority of issues can be resolved with something as simple as a link to a page that has all the answers they'll need," says Lisa Giosi, social media manager at Active Web Group. "This not only makes customer service more direct and organized, but more efficient as well."

One of the coolest things about social media - in the context of customer service - is that it allows businesses to turn negative circumstances into positive situations. We see this all the time with large companies on Twitter.

Take Delta Airlines as an example. They use their Twitter account to communicate with more than 1.13 million followers. While a lot of Delta's strategy involves marketing and branding, a healthy percentage of their communications deal with customer service and disgruntled customers.

Scroll through their newsfeed, and you'll notice that many of the responses are direct apologies or attempts to solve disputes and problems. Customers know that if they have a problem, they can send a message to Delta and get a quick response. For Delta, this is more than a customer service tactic: it's a solid PR play. It increases the company's image as a brand that cares.

With so much of modern customer service happening via social channels like Twitter and Facebook, this gradually reduces call center volume. As a result, businesses are able to maintain leaner departments that use time more efficiently.

Social Media and Marketing

Social media and marketing are a natural fit. Social media allows businesses to connect with, and engage, customers in an environment that's friendly to the customer. Furthermore, from a creative point of view, the flexibility is awesome.

Here are a few ways that social media is impacting marketing:

  • Better insights. From a purely analytical perspective, social media gives marketers access to incredible amounts of data and insights that previously went undetected. For the first time ever, marketers are able to study customers over long periods of time with minimal disturbance. They can tell a lot about individuals based on profile information, content shared, posts liked, and more. Ultimately, all of this can be used to develop highly targeted campaigns.

  • Bypassing gatekeepers. In the past, there has always been a gatekeeper in marketing. Whether it was publishing a press release through a specific platform or working with a member of the media to write an article, someone always stood between the brand and the customer. Social media changes this and allows brands to be more responsive and efficient.
  • Organic campaigns. Ideally, marketing is so natural that customers don't see the campaigns as overt advertisements. This has been difficult to master in decades past. Now, with various social platforms at their disposal, brands can take a ubiquitous approach to marketing. By always being there for customers, brands become part of the social experience. This natural fit delivers much higher returns.
  • Social media and marketing have become so synonymous that many businesses now have entire social media marketing departments. As more and more platforms are developed, and customers become even more accustomed to interacting with brands, the value and need for social media will only increase.

    Social Media and Advertising

    "Social media has changed the way people interact amongst themselves and with their media," writes Hank Wasiak, an industry expert with more than 50 years of advertising experience. "People play multiple - sometimes simultaneous - roles as receivers, creators, critics, advocates, transformers and transmitters of messages." As a result, the way in which brands deliver advertising messages has changed.

    In the past, marketing and advertising focused on the four P's: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Wasiak says that social media has expanded this to include a fifth P: People. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have so much data that - for the first time ever - advertisers can invest in highly-targeted, cost-effective advertising.

    "Early on, Facebook was criticized by advertising analysts as a fun place to hang out, but a network with little commercial intent or potential for consumer insight," says PPC expert Larry Kim. "That changed early in 2013 when Facebook forged partnerships with data brokers including Epsilon, Acxiom, and Datalogix." Facebook now has 500 million-plus active users, with an average of 1,500 data points per person.

    If a user gets married, Facebook knows it. If a user is looking for a job, Facebook can tell. If a person suffers from diabetes, Facebook is aware. There's virtually no limitation to what Facebook knows about a person. For advertisers, this is a dream.

    Facebook's native advertising platform allows advertisers and businesses to focus on ultra specific audiences. For example, a sporting goods store in Atlanta can choose to display ads to parents in the state of Georgia who earn $50,000 to $75,000 per year and have kids between the ages of 8 and 15. That's what the business world calls a game-changer.

    The Future of Social Media

    There's no telling what the future of social media holds. In the spring of 2016, we're expecting to see the value of video-based platforms like Periscope and Snapchat undergo significant growth, and it'll be interesting to see what effect this has on customer service, marketing, and advertising.

    However, the beauty of social media is that it's unpredictable. Social media will certainly evolve, but it's hard to imagine it ever going extinct. As such, it'll become increasingly important for businesses to continue investing in this high-returning growth medium.

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