STRATEGY (strat·e·gy) /ˈstradəjē/
“a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.”
Over the years, many a branded platform has been launched, with little to no long-term social media customer service strategy… or even a short-term one. It’s been very much about “getting out there” rather than dedicating the time and resources to make it successful. The digital world is littered with social media accounts that died a slow death, posted with little consistency or intent, misrepresented their brand or ignored the very customers they promise to serve. Don’t be a case study of how to do it badly.
To get it right – REALLY right – serious and thoughtful conversations need to happen before a single account is acquired or a social handle is created.
Over the years, I’ve had quite a few organizations (public and private) approach me about improving their social media accounts or discussing what is needed to build a business case to launch new ones. In all these conversations, regardless of how good the ideas were or the passion behind them to be on social, it’s important to ask yourself a series of questions that you may not have answers to right away.
To help get an idea of scope, I’ve put together some of the questions I usually ask, broken down into the 5 Ws and one H. (There are more that will come up organically, but this can help you start thinking strategically).
- Why do you want to be on social media to serve your customers? And why is social media the right platform for that goal?
- What does success look like for your customer service efforts? Why is social media the tool/platform to get you there?
- Does another communication platform better serve those goals? (I’ve heard many pitches where a regular newsletter to a curated distribution list would be far more effective. Make sure it’s the right tool for the job.)
This can be split into two categories: Audience and In-house.
- Who are they?
- What do they use to communicate?
- Is there a hashtag already associated with this community? (If there is: use it. If there isn’t: start one).
- If your customers are already on social media, is it a big enough community or just three people talking to each other?
- What language or tone do they use?
- What are their interests?
- How can you serve them with value?
- How will you manage your interactions and connection with your audience (spoiler: CRM) so you can be there at every step of the relationship?
- Who is going to run your social media account? (please don’t say “our younger staff” just cause they’re younger than you).
- Do they have communications training? Social media training? Customer service training?
- Do they keep up to date on the latest trends in social?
- Would you be comfortable with these employees speaking on behalf of the organization to media? (because that’s what they’d be doing on social media)
- Is your organization able to support professional development to keep them up to date on the changing social media landscape?
- What are you going to post? Your content or others? Both? Do you have have enough content to share or the capacity to create more?
- Is your brand content information your audience wants and will find value in? A social media strategy is only half the battle. You also need content to share and discuss with the public, whether starting a content marketing strategy (blogs, podcasts, videos, infographics) or using existing information from you and your stakeholders.
- Do you have enough content to fill a day? For example, if you can’t tweet seven times a day on various or variations of topics (not including retweets and responding to others) or come up with 30 ideas for videos or blog posts, you don’t know your topic well enough to start creating customer-centric content or being an authority on it on social.
- Where will you spend your time posting and engaging with the public?
- Where is your audience?
- Do you understand the differences of communicating (tone, frequency, length, timing, etc.) of each platform?
- Do you have the creator skills necessary for morphing content into different variations based on the platforms and media (audio, video, text, graphic)?
- Are you prepared to meet your customers expectations on accessibility? Social media customer service is a 24/7 existence… to your customers. Regardless of the fact your staff and you might not be working beyond Monday to Friday, 9-5(ish), your customers will want to engage with you when they want to engage with you. Especially during an emergency (big or small).
- Are you prepared to be timely when you engage? When responding to customers, they are looking for an answer right away and don’t care about your approval process.
- How will your social media customer service team integrate into the larger organization? To be effective as a social customer care service, it’s vital to be plugged into your company to know what’s coming, what’s a current or trending issue and to share your insights to other teams.
- How will you foster change management and get buy-in from every level? This is extremely important for a couple of reasons. First, your front-line staff (those traditionally answer phone calls and emails) are AMAZING sources for learning what your customers are asking for and concerned about, which should inspire what you share. Second, your subject matter experts in the organization need to trust that you’ll represent their knowledge properly while you need them to respond to your questions quickly so you can answer the customer’s questions. And lastly, your Executive need to have the confidence in you to publicly represent the business with minimal approvals (aka if you must get all your tweets approved, that’s a huge barrier to quickly serve your audience).
- How will you scale success? If your social customer service grows in value as a resource for your audience, the engagement and work will grow. You’ll need to be prepared for that growth.
- How will you know you’re successful? What metrics will you establish, track and analyze to make sure you grow in the right direction and are making the best strategic decisions moving forward?
These are all important questions to consider in making sure you’re on the right track. It will only help you better serve your customers and your organization because the benefits of a strong social customer care strategy can have huge, positive impacts to your business and brand.
What other questions do you think need to be asked to fuel your social media customer service strategy?