I recently had the pleasure of attending the Social Media Strategies Summit in Dallas. The two-day conference was jam-packed with tips from industry leaders, best practice examples and helpful information for agencies that are tasked with the job of managing brands’ social media accounts. Throughout the conference, there were four main themes that reappeared in presentations. These included: trust, the use of relevant content, listening and leveraging customer engagement.
Previously, consumers trusted brands and the marketing messages that companies fed to the public. For brands it was all about superlatives. Brands claimed that they were the best, the brightest, the fastest, etc. – and consumers believed them. Today, consumers have become skeptical of claims like this in brand messages. According to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer study, consumers’ trust of brand messaging is at a staggering 52 percent. This can be scary for brands, especially when you look at consumers’ trust of word-of-mouth messaging, which is at 92 percent.
This new marketing landscape is called by many the “new normal.” And in the new normal, this generation of consumers is referred to as Generation C. Unlike previous generations, Generation C isn’t a demographic, but a psychographic. They’re continuously creating, curating, connecting, communicating and are constantly bombarded by information.
So how does one succeed in the new normal? The answer is pretty simple: ditch the pitch. It’s not about superlatives anymore. Brands must connect with consumers and create an “always-on” strategy where they’re constantly curating and creating relevant content that their audiences want to engage with and are eager to share.
So how do brands know what’s relevant and what content will resonate within their community? A member of the American Airlines social media team shared how the company has developed a solution to this challenge by creating a robust listening process for their social media channels.
American Airlines listens to feedback that comes in the form of individual comments, engagement metrics and user-generated content. The company then uses this feedback to identify and develop new content, deliver praise, ideas and complaints back to the corporate side of the airline, refine their content strategy and repurpose user-generated content.
One of the most effective ways American Airlines listens to customers is by using Twitter to respond to customer complaints and questions. A 17-person social customer service team monitors the brand’s social communities 24/7 and has a goal of responding in 10 minutes with empathy in requests for details. Although American Airlines’ Twitter page has a link to post an official complaint, Twitter is an avenue where customers can share and receive real-time feedback and actually feel like their voice is being heard. When developing a strategy for a platform like Twitter, the most successful brands are agile, yet the company’s personality shines through in responses.
American Airlines has also used their active listening strategy to develop Twitter chats with executives such as Don Langford, vice president of customer care. The chats help establish a real-life personality for the brand, create transparency and help demystify the complex business of the airline industry. The social team promoted the #AskDon project on other platforms to encourage participation. Whether it’s questions about the future of the airline, a need for details about boarding procedures or inquiries about upcoming mergers, American Airlines’ Twitter chats have become an interactive way for the company to listen and answer customer questions.
Twitter chats are also a great way to gauge customers’ level of interest in certain topics, determine how they feel about new ideas and gain an overall better understanding of fans. Many participants will continue to use the assigned hashtag after the event to keep the conversation going, making it a win for brands.
Leveraging Customer Engagement
After developing a hardy listening process, the next step for many companies is to determine if any of the newly acquired information can be used elsewhere. Other than reaching out to adequate number of people on social media websites, that’s the only issue, for you can always buy more likes for Facebook. For American Airlines, they found that customers were taking great photos of the planes, scenery and their experiences through their windows during flights. The social team decided to leverage the user-generated content and created a hashtag, #AmericanView, to identify the photos. Customers were then encouraged to share photos and include the hashtag on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to be included in conversation. The airline then picked a variety of the photos and shared them in an #AmericanView Facebook photo album and Pinterest board. Through the photo sharing, American Airlines engaged with customers in an area where they were already actively participating, making it intuitive for them to interact with the brand.
When sharing customers’ content remember to always be upfront and open with them in the beginning of the process. For the most part, fans will happily agree to work with a brand and tend to appreciate some time in the spotlight. Through this, fans become the “hero” and have the chance to enjoy the widespread recognition from brands.
Where do brands go from here?
It’s wise to remember that consumers won’t automatically trust every message brands feed to them. In order to build a loyal community of followers, brands must create content that’s relevant to the audience. Listen to customers’ feedback, and when it’s applicable, leverage that content in a way that positions the customer in a positive light.