You’re probably wasting your money on social media

How many companies active on social media have a marketing department working on customer service these days? How many corporate Twitter accounts are swamping themselves with customer support messages, unable to get their own message out?

A lot. In their enthusiasm to get started with social media marketing departments started fixing problems other departments are responsible for.

Would customer service on Twitter be necessary if customers didn’t have to wait an hour to get someone from your company on the phone? I don’t think so.

The glass house syndrome

The fact is: social media are not creating new problems. Social media are exposing the problems your company was already having. And because marketing departments are the ones starting the activity on social media, they’re the ones who are confronted with these problems.

Marketing starting on social media

Marketing departments wanting to continue their social media efforts seem to have two choices: either fix the exposed problems themselves, or educate their company out of those problems.

Marketing fixing exposed problems

The first choice is the quickest. Hire a community manager who’s responsible for both handling your content marketing and your community management. Community management meaning: having interactions with your social media audience and… customer support.

Although this solution sounds easy, actually you’re welcoming a trojan horse into your department. Your community manager will most likely do a better job at customer service then the actual customer service of your company. The volume of service requests is smaller, plus the interactions are happening in public which is a great incentive to be on your best behavior as a company.

Marketing acting as customer service on social media

This phenomenon – better customer service on social media – will draw people away from regular support channels, towards social media. The volume of support request on social media will rise, and your community manager will soon be a customer support representative funded by the marketing department. He or she will be working full-time to hide the fact that your actual customer support department is underperforming, meanwhile eliminating the incentive to really do something about the problem.

The only way out: start reporting about the volume of customer support your community manager is doing, and trying to convince management to have some customer support people handling the customer support tweets.

Marketing messages swamped by customer support

With a bit of luck, you lost no more then a year of building a strong marketing presence on social media. Instead spending time doing a job that’s not really yours, and hiding a problem the company was having.

Marketing educating the company

There is an alternative. If marketing wants to be active on social media, you can try to get the other departments to join from the start. To do this the right, you’ll need budgets from multiple departments. That’s highly unlikely.

What’s more likely in this context, is that as a marketing department you will be paying the bills to educate the rest of the company. You’ll be organizing workshops to raise awareness about the possibilities of social media, and create policies to have employees behave in public just like you’re communicating in your employer branding.

If you’re lucky, after a year other departments will start to see the value created with social media, and start pitching in as well. You took the first step towards a ‘social business’.

The measuring side of things

What’s the big deal in marketing departments funding the long road towards becoming a social business? It’s in the numbers.

As a marketing department you’re supposed to create brand awareness, brand appreciation, leads and advocacy. Every year, those will be the four metrics your accounting for.

Impact of other departments on marketing performance

Things like good customer service have an impact on those 4 KPI’s, but that doesn’t mean they are your responsibility. In the end, everything your company does has an impact on those 4 KPI’s, but I suppose you’re not responsible for ‘everything’ that happens in your company?

When talking about social media, the duty of a marketing department is to create great marketing on social media. If bad customer service is standing in the way of great marketing, then I suggest your company gets her customer service right.

Read more on the blog of Darwin Analytics.

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