Friday, August 30, 2013

Communicating with Customers: Classic Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing

My first job in life was working trade shows with my mom. I would only work a couple of weekends a year to earn a little extra money, and my responsibilities were simple: helping the customers and answering any questions they had. Although I never had any altercations with customers (Most didn't get upset that a 14-year-old wasn't able to address all of their questions and concerns), my mom repeatedly reminded me that the customer was always right. Communication with customers is critical to the success of any business or marketing campaign. As an increasing number of consumers are utilizing social media networks, it is advantageous for brands to communicate with customers where they're already spending their time.
According to Gartner, Inc., companies that refuse to communicate with customers via social media, will face the same wrath as those that ignore customers' concerns on the phone or through email. 
When it comes to communicating with customers, timing is everything. In classic marketing strategies, if a customer has a question or complaint, they may have to wait days to receive an email or may get transferred to ten different people before someone is able to address their concern on the phone. Social media marketing allows customers to receive a response almost immediately. According to a study conducted by Ignite Social Media, the average time it takes Walmart to respond to a customer's Facebook post is 28 minutes. The less a customer has to wait for a response, the more satisfied they will be. 
Another advantage of communicating with customers via social media is that it allows you to monitor what customers are saying, respond in a timely fashion, and prevent a little problem turning into a full-blown crisis.
This past week I noticed that one of my Facebook friends posted on Sprint's Facebook page about a problem that she was having with her phone service. Several of her friends then commented that they were having the same problem. A Sprint representative was able to comment back within 24 hours. She let them know that she recognized the problem and told them when they could expect it to be fixed. Sprint's response not only addressed my friend's concern, it addressed the concerns of others having the same problem, and showed potential customers that the brand cares about its customers. 
In classic marketing, communication with customers is kept more private. All of your customers may have the same question, but you're going to have to speak with each individually because it's not transparent.
Classic marketing can allow customers to have more of a personal connection with the brand. If the customer has a positive experience of talking to someone face-to-face or on the phone, they'll associate that person and experience with the brand. I think it's more of a challenge for a brand to come off as personable on social media. 
I think brands are best off using a combination of both social media and classic marketing to satisfy the most customers. With more people using social media than ever, brands should start out monitoring and communicating with customers where they're already comfortable. If a problem still exists after communicating online, a company can resort to classic marketing techniques to establish more of a personal connection to keep the customer satisfied.