The Three Little Bears and Social Media

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, Technology Marketing Corporation  |  July 01, 2010

Recently, a TMC (News - Alert) team member returned from a show in the call center space and reported that some companies at that event didn’t think social media and the call center were going to intersect. When I heard this, I couldn’t help but remember the mid-nineties, when TMC launched a conference that tied the call center to the Internet. A few of our top customers told us we were jumping on the Internet “fad” and this had nothing to do with their business. A few years later, the Internet took off, and the complaints went away.

A few analysts also beat us up pretty badly – no one wants IP in the contact center, we were told. Sure enough, a few years later, you couldn’t discuss contact center infrastructure without discussing IP.

Change is constant in the tech space – and the challenge decision makers are faced with is not only determining trends but figuring out when to act on them. If you are too early or too late, you risk your job.

Personally, I believe that if your contact center infrastructure vendor doesn’t take the merging of social media seriously, you shouldn’t buy from them anymore. The reasons for my strong feelings are detailed in past columns and can be summed up in two words: customer empowerment. And they are empowered – anyone can comment about any company – whether they are a customer, competitor or disgruntled worker.

In past years, it was difficult for information on social networks to be found, but today, the world seems to have decided Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter are the most popular places to network with others, and search engines have gotten fantastic at ferreting out social media information and merging it with other results. Google recently went public with its Caffeine upgrade which blends social media results and if you do a search on a popular topic like “BP” you can potentially see what I mean – depending on if Google happens to be showing social results at that particular moment.

Did you know that if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest – surpassing the U.S. and only behind China and India. And did you know that Comcast (News - Alert) sees between 5,000 and 8,000 mentions of its name per week and successfully resolves hundreds of customer support issues by using Twitter.

These nuggets and many more can be found in Social Media and the Contact Center for Dummies, by Avaya’s Paul Dunay (News - Alert), one of the top minds in the world of social media marketing. The book is required reading for everyone in marketing who is not a social media expert. It should take no more than an hour to read and includes a bunch of free tools, which alone make it perhaps one of the most useful on your shelf.

Social media is not only a defensive tool, allowing you to listen and react to what customers are saying, but it affords companies a way to interact with customers in the places where they live. Many of your customers are somewhat addicted to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and they will be more susceptible to your message if they find it in context.

“Ignoring the social context in which customers operate is a recipe for failure. However, to really connect to their customers’ social context and to make the most out of their investment in social marketing, companies must look beyond social media and examine how they can leverage social influence on a broader scale,” explained Ran Shaul, Pursway co-founder. “The good news for these companies is that the key to unlocking the potential of social influence is in the customer transaction data they already have.  But to gain the insight into the social connections and social behavior of influencers and followers, they need to analyze this data in a completely different way than they do to today.”

That said, we are only in the early stages of the business social media revolution, and as Shaul notes, there is much work and innovation to come.

Businesses “are interested in social behavior that translates to business metrics, such as revenues and churn, not tweets and blog posts,” he says. “There is very little data that allows [them] to connect the dots between these metrics and what you can see in a social media sites and do it in a scalable and cost-effective manner.”

Just like other forms of communications such as e-mail, social media will not become a wholesale replacement for the other ways your company does business, but it does need to be integrated into your business in a cohesive way. This means you shouldn’t put your social media strategy on an island, but instead integrate it rapidly with the contact center, marketing, PR, SEO, community-building and other initiatives.

With the insane growth of social media this year alone, it is safe to say Goldilocks would be thrilled to be in this situation as it is definitely not too early or too late to jump into the mix – the timing is just right.

Rich Tehrani is CEO of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi