Ask the Expert

The Social Alphabet: What You Need to Know About Social Media as the Ultimate Communication Channel

By TMCnet Special Guest
Shama Kabani, CEO, The Marketing Zen Group and Jennifer Wilson, Product Manager, Interactive Intelligence
  |  September 01, 2011

The possibility is mind-boggling. To a business, social networks can mean the potential access to millions of people who are constantly sharing and looking for information — or in more direct business terms, “far-reaching connections to consumers, customers and potential customers in the global marketplace, in virtually every demographic, in near real-time.” Fundamentally, becoming social also gives businesses and their contact centers an opportunity to build their brands — as well as pipelines, customer relationships, and more favorable reputations for the products they sell and the services they provide. That makes social media the ultimate communication channel for most any business.

The alphabet for social media success

An effective place to start is by understanding some basic guidelines for social initiatives and the contact center’s role in managing them. In other words, learn your social alphabet first, and social media success will follow.

For now, here are some of the more critical guidelines. You can read the rest of the Social Alphabet in the whitepaper “The Social Alphabet: What You Need to Know About Social Media as the Ultimate Communication Channel.” Download it at

Attract. Launch a Facebook (News - Alert) page, build social media into your contact center’s customer service strategy and incorporate social sites into your web site’s product pages. If you’re a B2B business, form a LinkedIn (News - Alert) discussion group and start a blog full of rich content to increase SEO rankings to other businesses. Do everything possible to attract customers, their feedback, and their loyalty.

Buzz. There’s creating a buzz about a new product by way of social media users “spreading the word,” which can equate to free advertising and some serious lead generation Then there’s monitoring the conversations, or “buzz,” about your brand, in which case responding to ALL feedback is critical. Especially when the buzz is negative, the reaction time needs to be immediate.

Define (your campaign). As in, an outbound customer service campaign to post helpful hints, solutions to problems, product updates, new services, etc., including how to monitor and respond to comments. Narrowly defining such a campaign helps give your brand a stronger online identity, and unites your customers under those characteristics in their social networks.

Follow-up. Don’t let social media comments fall through the cracks. Automate contact center processes for follow-up with the ability to route and monitor social interactions based on agent skills, availability and priority, just like all other forms of communication.

Integration. Think response methods, then think of ways to integrate social media into existing CRM and business applications to help streamline these efforts. Integrating social media into the contact center and treating it like any other interaction is helpful as well, especially to keep track of customer information and interaction history.

Multichannel approach. In many ways, social media is similar to other multichannel communications, and should be handled with the same awareness. When customers are able to communicate in the way they prefer — and responded to in kind — satisfaction increases tremendously.

Response. Simple replies to a customer’s tweet or Facebook post can make them feel appreciated. Leverage your communications platform to automate rapid responses, and to track customer interactions overall. A consolidated look at how your customers interact with you across the board is also a great reporting and prioritization tool, particularly for when and how to respond “socially.”

Sentiment. Social monitoring tools in the contact center let you route social interactions to the appropriate agent based on the sentiment of posts, negative or positive. Based on the sentiment score, items can also be escalated to a supervisor for follow up as needed, including ensuring that highly negative posts are responded to immediately.

Words (matter). Set up alerts for industry-related or branded keywords to audit your online reputation and respond accordingly and correctly. Social monitoring tools automate notifications based on each keyword spotted, and can score and prioritize items based on the sentiment used. You can also use keywords to gather analytics on what’s being said about your brand, and how the brand is trending.

What now? A few other things to consider when implementing your social media strategy: Ask your customers and partners how they’re using social media. Research the competition to help decide what makes the most sense for your company. Determine whether to leverage social media for advertising and brand awareness, as an channel for customer service and inquiries, or for a combination of such uses. And again, to manage your social media strategy and make it the ultimate communication channel for your business, consider the technical and staffing resources you’ll need, how you’ll monitor it, and how you’ll respond to all those potential new customers you connect with.

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi