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Board the bandwagon: Social media roller coaster

Be it tactical, innovative or merely a quest at being modernistic, regardless of the underlying rationale, businesses and corporate empires among others, are making a beeline to set up a social media presence with a foretaste for the ensuing benefits. Not only is it considered ‘dapper’ and a la mode to have a social presence but it is also a way of signaling to peers, customers and the wider community, the propulsive dynamism of a business while ‘keeping up with the times’.
Also, businesses with a social media face are often perceived as being more trustworthy while supposedly exuding an aura of professionalism.

Inspite of the great ‘levitation’ surrounding cyber-sociability and its labyrinth of tools, approaches and concepts, not many recognise the underlying dynamics or the interplay between a 24x7 engagement and the conspicuousness that this medium accentuates. Most business managers struggle to explain what they hope to accomplish by ‘getting on’ the social media bandwagon. Others might measure ‘success’ on the basis of the number of Facebook likes or perhaps, the number of Twitter followers. After all, there would have to be something of interest for a user to want to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ a post, but this is also where the underlying dialectics come to the fore. Whilst ‘striking a chord’ with an audience and acquiring a following is hard, sustaining that interest and transforming casual followers into loyal fans and customers is even harder.

A state of continuous engagement on an ongoing basis alongwith relevant and frequently updated content, that inspires and captures the ‘imagination’ of the audience can lead to sustained loyalty, however this should not be construed as a case of ‘fait accompli’, in fact far from it, as any ‘false moves’ or even perceived ‘misdemeanours’ can rapidly ‘undo’ all the hard work and necessitate an urgent recourse to ‘damage control’ tactics.

A significant factor that draws organisations to social networking is the ability to engage with an active and ever-widening audience. Most organisations that set up a social media presence already have online properties with information about their offerings, however social media is where the audiences ‘hang out’ and that is where businesses strive to be. Once in the social media ‘spotlight’, there is no privacy and the conversation never ends.

Online sentiment becomes a treasured ‘entity’ and merits close
and constant monitoring through engaging responses, purportedly brimming with the right ‘noises’. The ubiquitous ‘world’ of social media is definitely not for the ‘faint-hearted’ and those that take the ‘plunge’ require creativity, perseverance and a engaging presence to ‘stand out in a crowd’. A significant ingredient of customer engagement is customer service, which is also a crucial link between the business and the outside world. A proactive and responsive customer service can be a strong ambassador for advancing a businesses esteem, conversely a languid and uninspiring service can have devastating consequences. In the course of conventional customer contact, a 1-2-1 discourse between the customer and the business aims to address and resolve any queries or issues.

The customer may or may not be ‘happy’ with the outcome, and an exceptionally harried customer might take recourse to other avenues to seek redressal, however the ‘reverberations’ would rarely transcend any local or contextual confines.
Likewise satisfied customers
may recount their gratifying experiences within their social contours. However, with social media, things can be a ‘bit’ different – for a start the conversation is between the customer, the business and the omnipresent online community.
A customer voicing his disdain, as well as the company’s response, is there for all to see and judge.

Cognisance of customer sensibilities is paramount for successful customer engagement, even more so, in a globally connected world.
An indifferent, lackadaisical customer service not only reflects badly on an organisation, but can cause irreparable harm, as any ‘inadequacies’ can quickly be amplified under the social media ‘glare’. Should the ‘first port of call’ ie: the customer service not yield a satisfactory response, and depending on the level of ineptitude, distressed users could vent their fury on social media. Along the way, others with similar experiences could ‘lend a voice’ leading to a feisty discourse on the merits or failings of the service.

Businesses that feel ill-equipped to honour their commitments or resort to dismissive tactics to ‘brush-off’ genuine concerns in a bid to mask their own failings will almost certainly end up being vilified. A customer-centric approach mandates having a proactive customer service that is equipped to resolve queries professionally and through wider ‘consultation’ with other
stakeholders ‘in the pecking order’.

Also, a business needs to function cohesively as a team with the distinct objective of fulfilling customer expectations. Internal, departments should be encouraged to communicate with each other and share information to respond collectively as a unit, rather than delivering a disconnected confabulation of ‘robotic’ assertions with no organisational impunity.
While ‘none of the above’ can guarantee a ‘bull’s eye’ outcome, even so, the social media odyssey should be a lot less ‘bumpy’ and with more uplifting ‘highs’ and fewer ravaging ‘lows’. Fancy a ride? ‘Welcome on board’.

The author is a Techno-Consulting Professional. He specialises in Web technologies, e-Commerce and Social Media.
On arrangement with Governance Now
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