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Customer Service and Social Media: Is the "Like" Button a Disruptive Game Changer?

Social media has truly changed the way that customers interact with brands, and brands with customers. And the trend, seemingly, isn’t slowing down anytime soon. A study published in April of this year cited that 93 percent of companies polled are using social media as part of their marketing efforts. Of these companies, 90 percent said that social media was a crucial tool to help them promote their business.

What’s not to love about social media?

It’s genius, really. Truly. Most social media tools are free, save for the time investment. Social media pages help increase a company’s search engine ranking and when it works companies essentially are getting free focus groups on their brands. Sites such as Facebook allow for personal interaction between brands and companies, and a well-planned social media strategy can be a key element in the lead generation process.

And wow. One look at some of the stats by big brands is enough to make any company drool with "Like Button Envy." Oreo has 17 million Facebook fans! Microsoft Live Messenger has 11 million! Coca-Cola has 23 million! After all, for sites like Facebook, each fan represents a potential repeat customer. At a minimum, you have the ability to engage and deepen the relationship with your brand on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

So really, it’s no wonder that companies’ social media efforts keep expanding.

But I’m not Coca-Cola. Is social media still relevant?

Even if you have a B2B company that sells widgets, social media and sites such as Facebook still have a place in your marketing toolbox—particularly if you rely on online business with your customers. To illustrate some of the potential gains possible through social media, a PC World article, published in April of this year, highlighted some social media benefits for businesses—particularly tech and B2B companies. Among the findings:

  • Social media is a great tool for new insights. It can help facilitate faster organizational decision making, product development, and messaging.
  • Social media and social networking are a great supplement (and can even replace) traditional lead generation tools such as online advertising, trade shows, or purchased lists.
  • By monitoring customer sentiment through social media channels, companies can ultimately increase sales revenue and gain more customers. Quick feedback translates to swifter innovation and customer service response times.
  • For companies with call centers, social media can help deflect customer service and support calls and speed response to customer service and sales inquiries.

Build a Facebook page! Customers will “Like” you, right?

Well, it’s not that simple, actually. And you may have already realized that there’s more to it than meets the eye when it comes to social media and your company.

This brings us to the topic of customer expectations.

A study on social media business patterns found that, ultimately, customers choose to interact with those companies that they already have a strong relationship with.

If you’ve worked hard at nurturing the customer relationship—through great customer service, product offerings, and innovation—chances are, you’ve developed a solid list of customers who genuinely like you. That’s a great start.

The bottom line is that successful social networking, the number of Facebook fans your company has, and the number of Twitter users following your feed, depend on the tried-and-true: great customer service.

In the CRM landscape, perhaps the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams should be changed from “If you build it, they will come,” to “If you meet the customer’s expectations, they will come.”

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