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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Becky Carroll On Bridging New & Old: Social Media Series

Becky CarrollThis week's guest for Flooring The Consumer'sSocial Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Becky Carroll.

Becky Carroll is founder of Customers Rock!, a consultancy focused on engaging customers through conversation, social media, and WOW customer experiences. She's constantly on the lookout for a Customers Rock! attitude which she celebrates on her blog, aptly named Customers Rock! It's an attitude that's all about customer centricity. Those who get it, live and breathe a serious commitment to customers; they truly appreciate that customers represent valuable company assets.

Becky teaches the class “Marketing via New Media” at UCSD. If you follow her on Twitter [@BCarroll7] - particularly when class is in session - you can participate in it with her as she exposes her students to social media and helps them bridge new and old marketing approaches.

You can hear Becky on the nationally-syndicated Big Biz Talk Radio show. She contributed "Building Walls Against Competitors" to The Age of Conversation 2 - Why Don't They Get It? - the book that 237 authors from around the world collaborated on to benefit Variety, the children's charity [please consider buying the book]. This snippet from her chapter highlights how important customers are: "There is absolutely no substitute for talking with customers. Companies that spend time listening to and talking with customers are best equipped to help customers get what they want -- and are successful in optimizing the customer experience..."

C.B.: Becky, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Becky: I started my blog Customers Rock! back in 2006 because I was drawn to the medium of blogging. I am a communicator with a passion for customers, and I felt that writing a blog would give me an outlet to share my thoughts and ideas. Additionally, I was tired of reading blogs that only ranted and complained about how poorly companies treat customers. I decided to create a blog that focuses on the positive stories of great customer experiences so other businesses could read it and learn what works.

Now, I am very active on Twitter as well as Facebook. I keep up with business connections via LinkedIn. However, my two areas of focus are my blog and Twitter.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Becky: I love that I can have a direct line of communication with others like me, not just here in California but around the globe. It has opened up my thinking to other ideas and methods of customer focus. I have made many, many new friends (as well as new clients) by way of introductions through social media. However, it is the offline conversations (meeting at events, Tweet-ups, etc) that have really cemented the relationships.

What I like about it for companies is the opportunity to grow stronger customer relationships. Yes, social media can be used very successfully for PR and “buzz building”. However, I think the sweet spot for social media is in nurturing customer relationships, creating two-way conversations, and gaining valuable customer insight that leads to loyalty.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Becky: I don’t like the way it has become the “answer” for problems. Everyone is jumping on the social media bandwagon without really thinking through the customer strategy behind it. What do they want to do with social media? Are their customers even using it? If so, do they want to communicate with brands through this channel, or do they only want to use it to connect with their friends? These questions, and others, need to be considered before starting up something with as much potential impact as social media.

C.B.: How has social media changed how you interact with the marketplace as a consumer or customer?

Becky: As a consumer, I find myself wanting to connect with brands via social media for two reasons: immediacy and authenticity. What I mean is that I can very quickly have a conversation with a company in a way that is convenient to me; I like that! Also, I can connect up with human beings who seem to care about what I think and have to say; that aspect of company-customer relationships has been missing with traditional media.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

Becky:
1 – Listen to your customers. Taking part in the conversation requires an understanding of what is already being said so the proper context can be used to engage. There are many great tools, both free and well as fee-based, that can be used to listen to customer conversations about your brand, your industry, and your products.

2 – Create a strategy. Don’t just throw together a Facebook fan page or start a Twitter account without a plan for how to best utilize it. Just like any other marketing tool, social media requires an understanding of how it will be used, who will be the target, and what will be the content. Only then does it make sense to execute the tactics (the “cool social media tools” themselves).

3- Ask your customers where they want to engage with you. It is best to optimize your time (and social media does take up a lot of time!) on those social media tools where customers want to interact with your brand/company. Don’t just guess – ask them where and how they want to talk to you. You might be surprised at their answers!

4 – Be as authentic as possible. Don’t just have your PR or marketing team be the only ones who Tweet/blog. Involve as many of your employees as makes sense. Provide some guidelines, then let your staff do what they love to do – talk with customers. Best Buy just implemented their new @Twelpforce, a Twitter Helpforce, and they are opening it up for participation from all employees – sales associates, store operations, call centers, etc. This will create a very authentic experience where employee personalities can really shine through. For another current example of this, see twitter.zappos.com for a list of all Zappos.com employees that are actively involved with Twitter (Zappos encourages their employees to use social media on the job).

5 – Use your evangelists. Success for social media comes not only in terms of the number of followers on Twitter, the numbers of readers of a blog, or the number of fans on a Facebook page, it also comes in terms of the level of customer engagement. Many people using social media are still Spectators (as the authors of the book Groundswell would put it), but there are more and more active participants who are willing to leave comments, write on your Facebook wall, or re-tweet something you have shared. “Employ” those people to become your advocates, your raving fans that help spread the word about your products or business. Customers like to be on your side, and social media is a great way to help them do it.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers and how best to do so.

No – I think I covered that in the answers above!

Thank you, Becky!

Comments, questions, reactions, feedback?

I love this statement that Becky makes: "the sweet spot for social media is in nurturing customer relationships, creating two-way conversations, and gaining valuable customer insight that leads to loyalty."

What do you think about her reasons for connecting with brands via social media, for immediacy and authenticity?

And how would you go about engaging your evangelists?


For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old, please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Series.


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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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