How to Meet Your Consumers’ Social Media Expectations

Already on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest? Then you have taken the first baby steps to understanding what your consumers expect. The crucial part of being commercially successful on social networks, however, isn’t just to have a profile or account. Obviously. It’s to understand how your consumers expect to communicate with you, expect you to add value to their social network experience, and how you can combine your consumers’ wants with your own interests. However, with the maturity of social media and the use thereof, what consumers want has changed over the years. I will take a look at what consumers expect today.

In a recent report from Get Satisfaction, the expectations of this so-called 2nd generation of social media consumers versus the actions of brands have been sized and measured to give a status of how brands navigate in the landscape of social networks. A landscape that holds a promise of great marketing potential to brands if approached correctly.
The main difference between social media consumers previously  versus today is in the nature of their expectations towards brands’ interaction and participation in communities on social networks.

 

Nurturing a community

According to the report, 50% of today’s consumers have a strong preference for “Branded Customer Communities”, e.g. Facebook pages with a huge emphasis on user interaction and a decreased focus on direct product engagement. 

 

Consumers do not join a Facebook community to learn more about a product from the mouth of the brand per se. Instead, they join the community to receive brand relevant content, to join in on the brand image – and potentially to hear the community members’ opinion on the product. This means that when considering whether to buy a product or not, consumers today will not initially search the brand’s Facebook page for information. Not surprisingly, they are much more likely to do a general Google search to find forums with consumer reviews on the specific product. At least, this is the initial step in the conscious part of the information search.

 

Why they choose you!

This does not mean that your brand’s Facebook page isn’t part of the decision process at all when it comes to buying products. On the contrary! Today, consumers will use your Facebook page to look for relevant content, the level of customer care and interaction between the fans and the brand, as a way to determine whether they want to buy into the brand image. According to an infographic by Conversocial for Zendesk, 50% of the consumers would not buy a company’s product, if they found that customer service and care on the Facebook page was lacking:

 

Where consumers previously were easier to impress with shiny brand pages and pretty product photos, today they want a community that gives them something extra. It is much more question of give and take, push and pull, between brand and customers than merely just brands pushing product information to consumers. Consumers want both content that can help build their own social identity and they expect to enter into a direct dialogue with a brand through social networks. And they expect the brands to respond! Responding to your fans’ questions and complaints is therefore not just a question of general community maintenance, but also a question of growing the community and thereby the power of Word of Mouth that spreads throughout your fans’ news feeds. According to the report, 58% of consumers have liked a Facebook page they noticed through their friends’ Facebook activity.

Despite this demand for direct interaction and customer care on the social networks, the Zendesk survey participants also drew a pattern of fans being very easily satisfied in terms of brand effort. As the numbers show, though consumers today expect brand engagement and interaction, they are not looking for looooong explanations or remorseful apologies. They simply want to be acknowledged by the brand:

 

Concluding on the social media users of today, the importance of meeting their expectations of relevant brand interaction is key. Consumers focus on the community aspect of social networks more than ever before, so if you want to be a success, you have to show that you are willing to add value to the community members. If you want your fans or followers to contribute something to your community (e.g. word of mouth to their network), as a brand you need to commit to the community as well. Acknowledge your community and engage!

 

 

View the full Zendesk infographic here
Read the full Get Staisfaction report here

 

 

 

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.