Social media is past the point of being “the next shiny object” for an increasing number of companies that are using it for customer care and to develop new products.
So said Karen Quintos, CMO of Dell, speaking in New York City Tuesday night to present the results of its new study, titled “Listening and Engaging in the Digital Marketing Age.” Dell commissioned the study to get a feel for how much social media really is being integrated into customer communications, and how it’s being used to drive loyalty, Quintos said.
“That sweet spot in social media. . .is in the integration of social media into the aspects of product development, customer support, engagement--the integration of customer targeting with really great content, linked with really great analytics,” she said.
The study, conducted by Forrester Consulting, found social media at the core of 20% of companies’ marketing functions, while another 50% said it is a serious part, but not yet a core function. Only 2% of marketers are still taking a wait-and-see approach on social media.
From the perspective of the buyer, 99% of U.S. consumers and 86% of business people now use social media to help them make business decisions, said Peter Burris, Forrester VP and research director. Forrester’s research found 88% of companies polled are monitoring online conversations about their brands, and 80% are using online media to respond to customer feedback, with 76% distributing that feedback internally.
More importantly, 64% said they are incorporating customer ideas picked up online into process or product improvements and 31% are offering customers incentives for their online engagement. “The transition we are going into is not temporary,” Burris warned. The migration of customer conversations to the social media channels is a permanent shift, and it’s already affecting how companies deal with both happy and disgruntled customers, he said. “That is a fundamental challenge,” Burris said.
For its part, Dell began delving into social media in 2006, led by CEO Michael Dell, Quintos said. Last year, it launched the Listening Command Center at its headquarters, where four staffers follow social media conversations, including trending and analyzing them.
“It’s a key and integral part of social media, and a real commitment for customers in terms of listening,” Quintos said. “Listening has been at the core of what Dell is about since Michael started the company 27 years ago in his dorm room. Branding is about building relationships and relationships are about listening.”
How other companies are meeting the challenge varies depending on their industries’ priorities, according to in-depth interviews carried out alongside Dell’s research. The survey of 200 marketers at midsize and large companies, included brands such as UPS, retailer REI, Wal-Mart Stores, Twitter, and Comcast.
For example, utility and banking services companies, where customer-service issues carry a high priority, are putting social at the core of their customer service response functions, Burris noted. Meanwhile, the biggest challenge at leisure and entertainment companies is building an emotional connection with consumers, so social media is now up-front in their branding efforts to build that connection. And high-tech companies, which are mainly concerned with building sales, are focusing social media efforts on lead follow-up and demand generation, he noted.
“It’s not always about getting impressions,” Burris said. Social media is being driven into new areas, such as customer service and products and services development, he said. “Social is not just about outbound [communication],” Burris said. “It is now being made an intrinsic and indelible part of the inbound decision-making about how to build stuff that better serves customers better.”
The release of the study coincides with the launch of Dell’s new global corporate advertising campaign. The effort--led by WPP Group’s Y&R Worldwide, Dell’s agency of record--began with research to zero in on what customers were saying about the tech company, as well as a pilot test carried out in Germany in February. By listening to customers, the company learned that customers viewed it as consistent, no-nonsense, and trustworthy, yet saw it mainly as “a PC company,” Quintos said.
But Dell also offers data center, storage, and other services, which it is trying to promote with a new campaign. Built under the tagline, “The power to do more,” much of the brand advertising is geared to showing Dell offers solutions to help professionals and individuals do what they want to do and do it better, Quintos said. The campaign, which broke the first week of July, has multimedia components in TV, print, outdoor, and online media.
“This is the best we’ve been able to do, having fully knitted” all the traditional and digital media, said Kelly McGinnis, VP of global communications. “It’s really been a journey for us--to re-establish what the brand is about.”