Brands know that social plays a critical role in their marketing efforts – but are they doing enough to create a killer social brand? The latest rankings suggest that traditional brands at least have some catching up to do on their technology focused peers. The Lithium Social Power Ranking lists the top 50 global brands that use digital strategies to connect, build trust and create the ultimate customer experience and have Microsoft, Amazon, MTV, Facebook and Google in the top five positions.
Their ranking is determined by how engaged customers are with such brands across data channels and so, as tech focused brands, providing a holistic digital customer experience is to be expected. However, it also serves as a reminder to more traditional brands to up their game in this area.
It has long been shown that social is critical for both building and protecting a brand, and it’s something customers increasingly expect. This means brands must know what social channels their customers are using and how they are using them, according to Fabrice Etienne, EMEA marketing director at Lithium Technologies. “Not all brands will necessarily need to use all social channels or use channels in the same way but knowing where your customers are going, who they’re listening to, what they are talking about and how they’re engaging in specific contexts is key,” he says.
Those brands who are excelling in creating a killer social brand have one thing in common according to Etienne and that is that they ground their social channels in a branded online community which customers are eager to be part of. “These communities act as a hub for peer to peer support, interaction and resolution and have been shown to drive brand awareness, engagement, satisfaction, loyalty and spend over time,” he says. They have also been shown to significantly reduce customer response times, he says.
And such channels themselves can provide rich fodder for the production of further content that can help build a brand’s social status, according to Etienne. “When social channels and online communities are used and tracked effectively in tandem, they create a repository of valuable customer content that can be utilised across the organisation to enhance the customer experience and overall brand,” he says. This could be anything from sharing information with customer care agents to marketing teams but can be a hugely powerful use of the real time data possibilities of social listening and analytics, says Etienne.
He says there are a number of industries that are excelling but that some brands could be doing more. “In general, we are seeing social and online communities play a more strategic role in the marketing and CRM functions of many organisations, particularly within the telecommunications, financial services and retail sectors – where customer demands and queries are very high. Several large UK brands are doing this including giffgaff, Vodafone UK and British Gas,” explains Etienne.
“We are also seeing a growing number of companies take a ‘total community’ approach to social. That is, they are employing social listening and analytics tools to inform their broader organisation of real-time customer insights, to rapidly improve the overall customer experience. That said, based on recent data, many UK brands could be doing a better job of using social in the CRM space,” he adds.
So what should brands do? Etienne says the aim is clear: “To improve their ranking, brands need to bolster and sustain engagement, trust and advocacy across all of their platforms – from Twitter and Facebook to branded communities and user review sites,” he says.
But this has to be done carefully to avoid social overkill. “The last thing that social users want is to be bombarded with countless messages that aren’t relevant to them,” Etienne explains. Instead, he says brands should understand their audiences both in terms of who they are, what they want and what they are talking about as well as having clear listening and response tools as well as data and dashboards to effectively track audience trends, conversations and issues in real time.
“Once brands have these big data insights, the focus should be on delivering quality – not quantity,” says Etienne. “They should look to deploy communications tactics and content that resonates specifically with the audiences they’re targeting – on the social platforms they’re using.
“Only then are brands a step closer to creating a social presence their customers will remember.”