BtoB

Found: The ROI of social media for b-to-b marketers

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I think it is fair to say that social media has hit the mainstream these days, but the big concern on every b-to-b marketer's mind has been “Where's the ROI?” I hear of many social experiments going on at several organizations that may or may not yield the results marketers are hoping for.

The problem seems to be that b-to-b marketers are often taking a classic approach to social media, treating it like just another media channel. They're posting press releases, sharing events and uploading videos, then expecting to see the kind of instant results they get with such other online media as banners, text links and search. Other marketers are looking for a tool to do the ROI work for them.

I believe there is one place that delivers a strong ROI in social media and, if you take advantage of it, you will not only conquer social media but delight your customers in the process.

Enter social customer support, which I would argue is the single best place to focus your social media efforts. We all know that customer support can reduce churn and increase retention rates. Further, a recent Forrester study showed that customers actually prefer a better customer experience to everyday low prices.

Companies that provide great customer experiences have customers that defect less and are more profitable to them in the long term. Using social media to do this—listening for and spotting customer issues, responding to them and solving problems in minutes—can provide what can only be called an exceptional customer experience.

Social media isn't just a customer-to-company channel. Happy customers use social media to drive positive word-of-mouth, capitalizing on the viral nature of social media.

The downside of poor customer service has been well-documented. More and more people are taking to the Internet to warn other would-be customers of their dissatisfaction. Don't let that be your company. I never read a social media case study that started with, “We completely ignored an issue this customer was blogging about and everything worked out great.” In fact, it is always the opposite.

And there is the added issue of customer choice. Not everyone enjoys calling into a contact center. As social media evolves, it will provide your customers a choice of how to interact with you. Going forward, they will expect to get support using the channel that they prefer and feel most comfortable with. And in many cases, that is going to be social.

Supporting and retaining your best customers is always a good strategy, especially in b-to-b where a few customers often account for a large part of your revenue. Keeping them happy and engaged with you is easy to do with social media, and it turns out that it is the best place to find a strong ROI as well.

Paul Dunay is global managing director–services and social marketing, at enterprise telecommunications company Avaya Inc. (www.avaya.com). He can be reached at pdunay@avaya.com.

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