Social Customer Book CoverOn our quest to understand the state of social marketing dynamics, we invited author and marketing strategist Adam Mertz (@theMetz) to share his insights about what’s at the heart of social marketing - the social customer.  In his book The Social Customer, Adam explains the advantages of socially-minded companies, which proactively manage the social customer. We were excited to have Adam offer an hour-long webinar on the principals covered in his book – watch the webinar here.

Let’s start with who the social customer is. Adam defines the social customer as anyone who uses social media at least once a month. Others like Michael Brito (@Britopian) have gone as far as defining six types of social customers.  And if you’ve read Brian Solis’ (@briansolis) recent blogpost The State of Social Marketing 2011-2012, then you know he talks about the social customer as “someone who first goes to their social networks of relevance to learn about products and services”.  If you are wondering how many of your current customers are social customers, follow Adam’s recommendation and use this free Social Technographics Profile Tool from top marketing and technology analyst firm Forrester’s. Forrester's Josh Bernoff (@jbernoff) and Ted Schadler (@TedSchadler), using methodology they developed in Empowered, have created this free tool to helps brands classify their consumers into seven levels of social technology participation. Brands can easily add demographic data to determine the percentage of social customers they service, along with their customers’ corresponding levels of social engagement.

Once you have established the size of your social customer pie, you can then tackle the next step – that of determining if your company is well suited to play the role of a “social object”. A “social object” status for a brand is the brand’s ability to create content and messages that people can actively discuss, interact with, and share via social media channels. A Lady Gaga song, for example, is viewed as a social object once it’s mimicked, re-recorded, and posted to YouTube by thousands of fans.  Brands need to be willing and open to be ogled, “liked” or disliked, or else they may as well stick with their traditional toolset. Here are a few of the “social object” qualifiers brands need to embrace to engage successfully with their social customers (For those interested to learn how to position their company or brand to achieve the social object status, download the first two chapters of The Social Customer for free):

  1. Your company wants to talk directly to your customers one to one
  2. Your company wants to talk to customers on a day-to-day basis
  3. Your company is willing to monitor social conversations and is able to turn them into actionable items, pronto.

If you believe that these qualifiers align with your company and brand, then consider the following use cases that help give your brand the social spark. Adam’s work is based closely on the research by Altimeter analyst Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) and Constellation Research CEO R “Ray” Wang (@rwang0) first published in Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management.  Building on their work, Adam defines 23 use cases for social customer relationship management. Here’s a peak at Adam’s social marketing use cases that will help you to enhance your social customer engagement efforts: 

  1. Social Marketing Insight – Build your customer social profile; know where your customers are spending time online.  When integrated into your marketing strategy, this knowledge is invaluable. It allows your marketing team to be incredibly effective by delivering highly targeted messages.
  2. Rapid Social Response – Monitor real-time conversations; make sure that you know what people are saying about your brand. Thanks to social monitoring technology, marketers can monitor the social landscape for hiccups about their brand and triage accordingly.  Adam uses the example of the Bank of America’s Google + brand jack incident this past November, where someone created a phony Bank of America account and was posting about “freezing all assets.”  This is a great example of why you should be monitoring your brand. Give yourself the opportunity to act quickly and save face. 
  3. Social Campaign Tracking – Use social media to test your marketing campaigns or product enhancements. The social customer is often a prosumer - part producer and part consumer, who will offer feedback for free! Polling your Facebook fans could save your company time and money. For instance, marketing agency 360i advised their client Velveeta to poll their customers on two different packaging designs.  The poll generated significantly more activity than their typical posts and ultimately affected Velveeta’s design decision.
  4. Social Event Management – Enhance attendees experience; by leveraging social technology and platforms, you can help attendees make more connections. Adam’s example is Google’s Cloud Conference, Atmosphere 2011. This event attracted over 350 CIOs including Flint Waters, CIO of the state of Wyoming, Bryson Koehler, SVP of Global Revenue and Guest Technology at IHG, Michael O’Brien, CIO of Journal Communications, and Christine Atkins, VP of Group IT at Ahold, among others.  These CIOs came together to share business strategies and efficiencies for collaboration in cloud.  The attendees kicked off the conference by downloading an app, which asked a few questions around specific connection preferences. The app then matched people and let them connect with each other on-premise. Be useful by focusing on the needs of your customers, use face time most effectively to make lasting connections.
  5. Social “Pull-Through” – Empower your customers to fight for your brand; it’s all about supply and demand and a happy social customer will become your brand ambassador, influencing your partners, suppliers and prospects. 

To get the full advantage of Adam’s insights, watch the webinar here.  You can also visit Adam’s blog, where he provides tools and offers free classes, audio chapters, and more. To add to your understanding of the social customer and get additional insights on how to best engage them, you may also consider the following resources: Here’s What People are Looking at on Facebook Brand Pages for insight on how consumers look at brand pages; How to Turn Fans into Brand Ambassadors to learn techniques on how to empower your social customer to promote your brand, and State of the social customer 2011-2012 to learn about the current state of the social consumer and their decision making styles.

How do you engage your social customer? Do you have a prosumer success story?  Have you caught a phony in real time? Has your social following paved the way for a product? Let's continue the discussion in the comments below, on Twitter at hashtag #EngageAwareness, on Facebook at Social Media Marketing Best Practices, or LinkedIn at the Social Media Marketing Mavens Group. 

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year,

Mike Lewis
@Bostonmike