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Getting Started with Digital Marketing IN THIS PART …
Become familiar with the role of digital marketing and get clear on the value you bring to the market. Get laser-focused on who your customers are and the steps they take to go in a process known as the customer journey.

Learn the six common digital marketing goals and how to employ the three most important types of digital marketing campaigns.

Discover the types of offers you can make to prospects, new customers, and returning customers as well as the proper sequence for presenting these offers.

Chapter 1 Understanding the Customer Journey
IN THIS CHAPTER Getting clear on your ideal customer Understanding the value you bring to the marketplace Learning to take a prospect from awareness to raving fan Think about the last important purchase you made.

Perhaps you bought a car, hired a babysitter, or switched coffee suppliers at your office. Chances are, you consulted the Internet to read reviews, get recommendations from friends and family on social sites like Facebook, and boned up on the features, options, and price of the product or service before you made your choice.

Today, purchases and purchasing decisions are increasingly made online. Therefore, regardless of what you sell, an online presence is necessary to capitalize on this trend. This new digital landscape is impacting organizations in more than just the lead and sales generation departments, though.

Savvy companies use the Internet to drive awareness and interest in what they offer, but also to convert casual buyers into brand advocates who buy more and encourage members of their network to do the same.

In many ways, nothing in marketing has changed. Marketing is still about developing a mutually beneficial relationship with prospects, leads, and customers. We call the development of this relationship the customer journey.

In this chapter, you learn to create a customer journey for your organization and the role digital marketing plays in that journey.

The rest of this book helps you to create and execute offers and marketing campaigns that intentionally move customers through the stages of this customer journey. The role of your digital marketing is to assist in moving a prospect, lead, or customer from one stage of the customer journey to the next.

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Creating a Customer Avatar
Because the role of your marketing is to move people through a series of stages from cold prospects to rabid fans and promoters, you must first attain clarity on the characteristics of your ideal customers.

You want to get clear on their goals, the challenges they face meeting those goals, and where they spend time consuming information and entertainment.

Creating a customer avatar will give you this clarity. Other terms for customer avatar are buyer persona, marketing persona, and target audience, but customer avatar is the term we use throughout this book.

A customer avatar is the fictional, generalized representation of your ideal customer. Realistically, unless your product or service fits within a narrow niche, you will have multiple customer avatars for each campaign.

People are so much more than their age, gender, ethnicity, religious background, profession, and so on. People don’t fit neatly into boxes, which is why broad, generic marketing campaigns generally don’t convert well; they don’t resonate with your audience.

It is absolutely crucial that you understand and make your customer avatar as specific as possible so that you can craft personalized content, offers, and marketing campaigns that interest members of your audience or solve their problems. In fact, the exercise of creating a customer avatar impacts virtually every aspect of your marketing, including:
Content marketing:

What blog posts, videos, podcasts, and so on should you create to attract and convert your avatar ? Search marketing: What solutions is your avatar searching for on search engines like Google, YouTube (yes, YouTube is a search engine), and Bing ?

Social media marketing:
What social media sites is your avatar spending time on ?
What topics does your avatar like to discuss ?
Email marketing:
Which avatar should receive a specific email marketing campaign ?

Paid traffic: Which ad platforms should you buy traffic from and how will you target your avatar ? Product creation:
What problems is your avatar trying to solve ?

Copywriting: How should you describe offers in your email marketing, ads, and sales letters in a way that compels your avatar to buy ? Any part of the marketing and sales process that touches the customer (which is pretty much everything) improves when you get clear on your customer avatar.

After all, you’re aiming toward a real person — one who buys your products and services. It pays to get clear on the characteristics of that person so that you can find and present him or her with a message that moves this person to action. What to include in your customer avatar

The customer avatar possesses five major components:
Goals and values: Determine what the avatar is trying to achieve.
What values does he or she hold dear ? Sources of information: Figure out what books, magazines, blogs, news stations, and other resources the avatar references for information.

Establish the age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, income, employment status, nationality, and political preference of the avatar. Challenges and pain points:

What is holding the avatar back from achieving his or her goals ?
Objections: Why would the avatar choose not to buy your product or service ?

In some cases, you need to survey or have conversations with existing customers to accurately flesh out your customer avatar. In other cases, you may already be intimately familiar with the characteristics of your ideal customer. In any case, move forward.

Don’t wait for surveys or interviews to be conducted to create your first draft of an avatar. Instead, go ahead and make assumptions despite having no data or feedback, and put completing your research on your short list of to-do’s.

In the meantime, you can begin benefiting from the avatar you’ve created. Giving a customer avatar an actual name assists in bringing this fictional character to life. In addition, your team members have a way to refer to each avatar among themselves.

Using the five elements described in this section, we created a worksheet that we complete each time we create a new customer avatar. The worksheet helps you hone in on the ideal customer and pair him or her with the right message. In the following sections, we go into more detail about this worksheet so that you can use it in your own business.

Introducing Agency Eric:
A customer avatar example In April 2015, DigitalMarketer introduced a new offer. We began selling a new type of digital marketing training product: Certification Classes. These new trainings include exams, certificates, and badges, and they appeal to a new ideal customer.

Of course, having a new ideal customer means that a new customer avatar must be built. As a result, we defined four distinct buyer personas who would be interested in certifications and training from our company:
The marketing freelancer: Wants to distinguish herself from the other freelancers she is competing with in the marketplace.

The marketing agency owner: Wants to add to the services he can offer his clients and to sharpen the marketing skills of his employees. The employee: Wants to distinguish himself at his place of employment or to secure a new job or promotion within his existing job.

The business owner: Wants to sharpen her own marketing skills and the skills of her internal marketing team members. From the buyer personas, four new customer avatars were born. We call one of these new avatars, pictured in Figure 1-1, Agency Eric.

FIGURE 1-1: "See the full version" Agency Eric is a customer avatar who purchases the certification product from DigitalMarketer. The next section describes the approach to filling out each section of the customer avatar worksheet so that you can define your customer avatars.

Getting clear on goals and values
The customer avatar creation process begins with identifying the goals and values of one of your ideal customers. Make note of the goals and values that are relevant to the products and services you offer.

Being aware of your customer avatar’s goals and values drives decisions that you make about Product creation: What products or services can you develop to assist the avatar in meeting his or her goals ?

Advertising: How can you describe these offers in your ads and sales copy ? Content marketing: What blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, and other content vehicles might your avatar respond to ?

Email marketing:
How can you tailor your email subject lines and body copy to be consistent with the avatar’s goals ? At DigitalMarketer, our Agency Eric avatar owns a digital marketing agency and manages a team of marketers providing services to clients.

One of Agency Eric’s goals is to increase the capabilities of his team.
Agency Eric knows that a more capable team will result in satisfied customers.
Understanding the goals and values of your avatar is important.

Because Agency Eric has this goal, he is likely to open and respond to an email that promotes our company’s Content Marketing Certification with the following subject line: Need Content Marketing training?

Finding sources of information and entertainment This section of the customer avatar worksheet is critical to determining where your customer avatar is spending his time on and offline.

What books does he read ?
What celebrities does he follow ?
What blogs does he read ?

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This is vital information when considering where you will advertise and how you will target those advertisements. We cover digital advertising and ad targeting in Chapter 10 of this book. The key to truly understanding where your customer is getting information and entertainment is in identifying niche sources.

Identifying these niches is fairly simple using the “But No One Else Would” Trick. To use this trick, you simply complete sentences like: My ideal customer would read [book], but no one else would. My ideal customer would subscribe to [magazine], but no one else would.

My ideal customer would attend [conference], but no one else would.
The idea is to find the niche books, magazines, blogs, conferences, celebrities, and other interests that your ideal customer would be attracted
to — but no one else would.

For example, if you sell golf products, you wouldn’t assign
Tiger Woods as a celebrity. Tiger Woods is a celebrity your customer avatar would follow, but a large percentage of people interested in Tiger Woods are not golfers and aren’t likely to buy your golf products.

Instead, choosing a more niche golfer like Rory McIlroy allows you to hone in on your ideal customer and exclude people who wouldn’t find value in your product. If you find these niches when buying traffic from ad platforms like Facebook

(covered in Chapter 10), you can often laser-target your audience by focusing on prospects who have these niche interests, while excluding less-than-ideal prospects.

Honing in on demographics Applying demographic information brings your customer avatar to life. In this section, you add information to your avatar such as age, gender, marital status, and location.

Although the usual demographics are critical, the exercise of filling in the “Quote” field (shown in Figure 1-3 “ In full Book) can be particularly helpful to get inside the head of your ideal customer.

The Quote field is how this avatar might define himself or herself in one sentence, or it’s the motto the avatar lives by.For instance, our quote for Agency Eric is “I surround myself with people smarter than I.”

This sentence says a lot about this avatar’s character and motivation to purchase our marketing training products. Brainstorm ideas for your avatar’s quote with your team or someone who knows your business well.

FIGURE 1-3: Demographics bring the customer avatar to life. Demographic information for your customer avatar is also useful for choosing targeting options in ad platforms like Facebook.

Bring your avatar to “life” as much as possible, even by visualizing the person if you can, because when you’re writing content, email, or sales copy, it can be beneficial to write as though your avatar were sitting across the table from you.

Demographic information like age, gender, and location gives your persona a look and feel. Adding challenges and pain points This section of the worksheet can help drive new product or service development. It can also help inspire the copy and ad creative you will use to compel your ideal customer to action.

Copy is any written word that makes up your ad, email, web page, social media post, or blog post. Ad creative is an object that communicates information in visual form, such as an image, a GIF (graphics interchange format), a video, an infographic, a meme, or another form of artwork that you use to convey your message.

You use copy and ad creatives to call out to your audience, capture people’s attention, and address how your product or service adds value to their lives by solving a pain point or a challenge they face.

When selling certifications to Agency Eric, for example, our company would do well to build solutions to his challenges and pain points and use language that addresses them in our marketing messages. For example, this avatar would respond to sales copy like the following:

Are you tired of losing proposals simply because you don’t offer content marketing services to your clients ? Certify your team with DigitalMarketer’s Content Marketing Mastery Course and Certification.

Copy like this receives a response from Agency Eric because it is specific to one of his pain points, which is the fear of losing business to competitors
(see Figure 1-4 "See the full version").

FIGURE 1-4: Understanding the challenges and pain points of your customer informs your marketing efforts. Preparing for objections In the final section of the customer avatar worksheet, answer why your customer avatar might choose to decline the offer to buy your product or service.

The reasons your avatar doesn’t buy are called objections, and you must address them in your marketing. For example, if we know that Agency Eric is concerned with the amount of time his team members will be out of the office or unable to work while getting trained, we can send an email that overcomes that objection with a subject line like this: Get Content Marketing Certified
(in one business day).

You can prepare your own customer avatar as we discuss with the help of a resource from DigitalMarketer. Find it at

Getting Clear on the Value You Provide An important part of planning for digital marketing success is understanding the value your organization brings to the marketplace.

The value your company provides is far greater than the products or services it sells. In fact, people don’t buy products or services at all; instead, they buy outcomes.

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Why Your Business Needs A Social Media Customer Service Strategy
- And the Benefits! By 2020, 90% of companies will be using social media for customer service – Gartner Research, 2014.

[i] The rise of social media has changed the landscape of customer service forever. It might share the same core principles as traditional customer service, but for consumers it offers a means of communication with brands that is more immediate, convenient and public than ever before.

In the days before the Internet and call centers, face-to-face customer service – personal, contextual, and pro-active - was common.

However, the drive to cut costs and “improve” customer satisfaction actually lead to a situation where people were frequently frustrated by slow, fragmented and robotic service. Now, things have come full circle. Got beef with a company or want to tell them something nice ?

Grab your smartphone from your pocket and your grievance is out there in seconds – for the company in question and everyone else – to see.

According to a study by the Institute of Customer Service, 25 percent of social media users in the UK now use social media platforms such as Facebook Twitter, and Instagram to complain during the first quarter of 2015 - a huge climb from just 3 percent the January before[ii].

Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service explained: “We have reached a point where social media is not just a necessary component of a credible customer service strategy but one which offers powerful insights that drive better innovation, co-creation and collaboration.

To make this a reality, social media needs to be a central part of a coherent, sustained and long-term focus on customer service strategy, something that many organisations are yet to do.” Simply put, social media customer service is no longer an option, it is a requirement.

If your business has a social media presence of any sort, you should be ready and prepared to offer social media customer service.

And if you don’t have a social media presence at all, perhaps now is the time to investigate whether the demand for customer service via such channels is there (lots more on discovering this later).

Demonstrating the growing trend towards social media as a customer service option for brands, a 2015 study from Conversocial, a leading provider of cloud-based social customer service for global companies found that: 55% of brand respondents now value social customer service.

26% of brand respondents now take social media seriously as a service tool. 30% of customers expect a "first contact" resolution from a social media customer service team. That last statistic is an interesting one, and it underpins the importance of utilizing social media as a serious part of your customer service strategy.

Simply put, if a customer wants to reach out to you (particularly if they have had a bad experience and want to complain), social media is – increasingly – an avenue of contact that they will turn to first, And why ?

The proof is in experiences shared by us all. Company phone numbers can be hard to find and expensive to call, contact center menus are often a nightmare to navigate, and wait times can be long. In addition, email and contact forms are impersonal and a rapid response is not guaranteed, sometimes taking days.

When a customer has a grievance with your company, all they want to do is resolve the issue as quickly and easily as possible; they want to reach out to you and get an empathetic response right away, not fire off an email to an invisible inbox, or wait on hold for 40 minutes.

A 2015 study by the Northridge group found that the most common reason
(26% of respondents) that people reach out to companies through social media is that the other channels have failed them, [iii] and they are doing so in increasing numbers.

Research from Sprout Social found that between Q2 2014 and Q2 2015, there was a 21% increase in messages sent globally to brands on Facebook and Twitter, compared to a 18% increase in the US.[iv]

The same report calculated that 4 in 10 of messages required a response from the brand, showing that customers aren't just mentioning businesses on social media, but expecting interaction in return.

Many commentators have suggested that the customer experience – of which customer service is a big part - is the new marketing - and they're right. Speaking to an audience in 2014, Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes Benz USA explained, “

Now with social media and the connected environment we live in, a good experience can lead to thousands of connections and a negative experience can lead to potentially more than that."

[v] Robin Fray Carey - co-founder and CEO of Social Media
Today – goes further, saying “…customer service is now exposed in real time to a broad audience, it’s much more a part of brand and marketing than it ever has been. And that’s critical. The company’s ability to address issues raised in social also becomes part of its best practice in customer service."

[vi] In a world where competition between businesses is fierce and consumers have more choice than ever, they will turn to those that provide the best service. Speaking to Forbes in 2011, Tony Hsieh from the online shoe retailer, Zappos, explained that he sees customer service as a marketing investment, not just an expense that must constantly be slashed and analyzed.

[vii] The truth is that using social media channels only to broadcast your marketing messages will no longer be appropriate. In order to remain authentic and strengthen bonds between you and your customers, communication must be a two-way street. In my bestselling book, "500 Social Media Marketing Tips,"

I write about how the very essence of social media marketing lies in building strong and long-lasting relationships with your customers. Alongside a top notch content strategy, the ability to provide great customer service is, I would suggest, equally as important in making these strong bonds a reality.

Okay, so you realize that social media customer service is becoming an increasingly important element of your overall social strategy, and you might also be wondering if all the hard work will be worth it.

In a word, the answer is… yes. For starters, here are several benefits of using social media for customer service: Social customer service allows for instant resolutions to customer service issues (compared to the delays associated with email and telephone).

Tired of call centers and email support, social media gives you the perfect opportunity to provide a personal service to customers and a real way to strengthen relationships and loyalty.

They know that by posting on your Facebook wall or sending you a tweet, that they have direct contact with an individual – they ask a question and receive an answer – no complicated phone menus or bounced emails in sight. Conversations are public and transparent.

This gives the customer a sense of power and control as they wait for your response. In addition, every public interaction becomes searchable on the web.

This allows other customers to find and solve their own problems (saving you money), and lets people see what fantastic customer service you provide and what a great company you are (making you money).

For businesses, social media is a platform to provide individualized, thoughtful, and even shareable, customer service interactions not possible via any other medium – interactions that can not only do wonders for your brand image,
but your bottom line, too.

Speaking at Customer Focus Live, a UK conference all about bettering the customer experience, Jenny Burns of national car insurance company, RSA, said “On average it costs a company £2.80 [$4.40] to deal with a customer on a phone, but responding to queries on Twitter can reduce costs to 90 pence [$1.40].”[viii]

According to Burns, customers who get good service through social media will spend an average of 21 per cent more with the business. And according to its own research, Twitter says customer service on its site can save up to 80 percent per interaction compared to phone calls - $1 per resolution compared to $6.[ix]

Happy customers will often post positive statuses about your service (seen by all of their friends and the wider public, boosting your reputation and the chances of being recommended to someone in future). This could happen across multiple mediums, not just the social network where the interaction first took place.

Negative remarks about your company can be dealt with swiftly (as a way to protect your reputation), and this can all be executed in a personalized, friendly way – treating customers like individuals in a manner and tone that is relaxed and conversational, a world away from the noise, stresses and strains of a contact center. Following up with customers is quick and easy.

If necessary, you can reach out to customers to see if they were happy with your service, and if they need any more assistance. Whether you’re acknowledging positive mentions or dealing with negative ones, it’s all extra opportunities to spread the visibility of your brand name.

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Note: Some commentators have suggested that social media customer service is a double-edged sword. A study in Marketing Science found that responding to customer complaints on social media improves customer relationships,

but also increases expectations about receiving help, making them more likely to complain on social media in future.

[x] "Social media is a double-edge sword - companies need to watch out and weigh the plus side against the downside for marketing and service interventions," said Sunder Kekre, one of the study's authors and a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

As far as I see it, though, as long as you are aware of this factor and keep on top of matters, the good most certainly will outweigh the bad.
As much benefit as a good customer experience can have for your brand versus other methods of communication,

the potential damage that a bad instance of social media customer service can do – given the medium’s viral nature – is also greater than other channels.

As you’ll see from real life case studies that I detail in later chapters, the pitfalls can be catastrophic, so it’s certainly not something to take lightly.
So, who is this book for ?

Delivering a stellar social media customer service – one that solves customers’ problems, increases loyalty, and inspires brand advocacy - requires careful planning, whether your business is small or large, from a solo entrepreneur to a substantial workforce.

In this book, I will give you all of the information and tools you need, from company preparation to response strategies, and ways to measure the real impact that your operation is having on your business Heads up! If you are a sole entrepreneur, you may feel like skipping the next chapter

(it talks more towards businesses with dedicated customer service teams), but I’d recommend giving it at least a skim read as there’s plenty of advice that can apply to the personal development of individuals, and businesses of any size.

How to Prepare Your Business And Staff For A Social Customer Service Strategy “An issue that is resolved within 24 hours, at the first point of contact… can be up to 170% less costly than an issue that takes 48 hours to resolve.”[xi]

Given the rise in demand for social customer service, it is a channel that deserves increasing respect, and for those who handle incoming queries, to have the right training.

The people who manage your customer service on social media will require just as much skill and knowledge as traditional customer service representatives and – because they will be public-facing brand ambassadors too - need the skill set that such a position demands.

Before that, the fundamentals of a customer service strategy are as follows:
Be where your customers are It might sound obvious, but one of the critical components to providing stellar social media customer service is figuring out where to focus your time and efforts.

For many companies, Facebook and Twitter are where your audience is most likely to be active and engaged in conversations about your brand. However, you’ll know best if the likes of Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. are where you are better off.

You’ll be able to get a general sense of where your customers are with a few manual searches, but for a more detailed breakdown you might choose to comparatively analyse volumes for each social channel to help you plan when building your customer service support team.

Other things to look out for include the main pain points of your customers and what days and times they most frequently mention (or complain) about your brand. Leon Chaddock, CEO at Sentiment, provides some great advice for finding your audience: “

While Facebook and Twitter and more often than not the first port of call for social customer service delivery, we always recommend sitting back first and monitoring the whole social sphere 360 degrees.
Only then can you know where to start.

By using a social customer service platform that includes blog, forum, and review site monitoring you can really see what the issues people are facing with your products and services, and where they are engaging most.

You may be surprised! Once you have this mapped out you can deploy channels one by one, set up automations to route to the right team and enable more advanced workflow.

Take it step by step, and remember social customer service isn’t a one-time set up, you need to evolve your service offering as social platforms, features and customer utilisation changes”.[xii] Set your goals Every good marketing strategy needs goals, and social customer service is no different.

Whether you want to handle a particular number of issues via social, improve the rate at which customer care issues are solved, boost brand advocacy, protect your reputation online, or something else, be sure to clearly define your aims at the beginning of your structured foray into social customer service.

With that done, you’ll be in a good position to measure your progress – I’ll talk about how to do this in a later chapter. Now, more about the people on the frontline of customer support !

As alluded to in the introductory paragraph of this chapter, don’t expect that lumping the responsibility of social customer service onto your tech team or an untrained call center representative will produce stellar results.

Ideally, your social customer service should be integrated into your existing setup and – from the off – feature staff who are already familiar with (and passionate about) your business.

Some of the attributes required to be a great customer service agent include: Personable: They’ll be handling real issues from all kinds of real people, so they have to be affable and genuine in their interactions. Despite the tendency to want to be defensive when someone complains, they’ll need to be able to show kindness and use a genuine tone of voice while working towards a solution.

Empathetic: Customers feel happier when they sense that your company cares about solving their problems, so a good agent is able to put themselves in the shoes of a customer, and able to show that they understand and have compassion for the issue at hand.

Articulate: Agents will primarily be dealing with customers through the medium of text across a variety of social networks, each with its own set of cultural norms and expectations.

A good agent will not only be able to handle complaints succinctly and craft well-written responses that reflect well on your brand, but also be able to tailor their manner to match the expectations of the customer and social network in question.

As part of your recruitment, providing potential agents with test situations – timed if you wish - is a good way to gauge their writing style, and whether they work under pressure.

Composed: Depending on the size of your audience and the number of queries you receive, a customer service agent might be handling dozens of queries per day. Whatever the amount, a good agent will have the confidence and patience to tackle all manner of queries, knowing instinctively what the best course of action should be.

Inquisitive: The best customer service agents will be eager to learn and improve their skills. Being on the front line as they are, they might even be able to teach you a thing or two about how to steer the course of your social customer service strategy.

Note: Social media marketing is often seen as a young person’s game, but where customer service is concerned, an older candidate – someone with more life experience and, perhaps, a greater empathetic side – might be better suited to the job role. Ideally, a customer service team should be varied in age, and all be able to understand and relate to the mind set of your customers.

As a way to help streamline operations and alleviate any confusion about who should handle what queries, assign the job of social customer service manager to one – or several – people.

These people can then either respond to all customer queries themselves, or recognize the type of query (e.g. refunds, shipping, product information, etc.) and forward it to the most appropriate member of your team.

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Develop a clear social media company policy, but give agents freedom To ensure that all employees are trained to a high standard, and that the way they handle customer service over social media is consistent with your brand’s image and expectations, developing a one-stop-shop document for staff training is essential. Important elements to include within the handbook include:

An introduction to social media and the channels your company will be using.  Despite its prevalence, don’t assume that all of your staff (even the younger ones) will be familiar with the social channels you choose to focus on. Spend a little time introducing them, and explain how the goals for each might differ.

Why your company is using social media and how it aligns with your goals. Just as with any of your staff and other parts of your business, those that handle your social customer service need to understand how important their role is as part of the bigger picture, and that they will be encouraged and empowered to maintain high standards in accordance with this.

Educate them about what customers expect from your brand, and the values that you expect them to promote. Tips and strategies for handling queries, engaging with customers, some examples to highlight a variety of scenarios.

Clearly explain the step-by-step process that a member of your team must use to process a customer service query on social media. Include details like the tone of voice, tips of message length, and what data to record for your own records. Links to your company’s knowledge base.

Make it as easy as possible for agents to find the answers to commonly asked questions – in text, pictorial, or video form. Host them on a website or have links to them in a document or spreadsheet, organized by category,
for ease and speed.

Also, don’t forget to explain where customer service representatives can go to find answers to commonly asked questions, and what to do if a customer’s query requires escalation.

Importantly, when you provide training examples, give your staff the confidence to craft their own responses and add a personal touch, rather than copying and pasting exactly what you suggest. You have to trust your customer service agents to treat every query individually, and give them the license to respond in the correct manner as aligned with your brand’s values.

Empowering your agents in this way has two core benefits: firstly, it gives them a feeling of authority, the flexibility to really connect with a customer when helping to solve their issue, and makes an agent’s job more rewarding.

Secondly – and as an offshoot of this – happier, more motivated staff means a more effective service and, ultimately, satisfied customers who will return in future, and recommend you to their friends.

Karlijn Vogel-Meijer, Social Media Manager at KLM mirrored these thoughts when explaining the airline's training for social customer service agents: "They get a couple of weeks training regarding what the KLM tone of voice will be, what the processes are like.

What’s different from a lot of other companies is we give them a lot of freedom. We are like, “OK, you’re a grown-up. You have been hired for this job because there are specific things that you are really good at. We’ve given you an extensive training, and now you’re free to do it with your own personal tone of voice, within the KLM tone of voice, of course.”[xiii]

Customers notice – and often call out - businesses who do simply regurgitate robotic responses, and this is not a good way to go about humanizing your company. Social customer service agents are relationship builders who provide personalized assistance, so trust them to do just that.

Note: As well as giving customer service agents freedom to express themselves in words, you might also consider allowing more flexibility in their actions; not all of the time, perhaps, but in cases where the pay-off might seem worth the effort. When a mother contacted the UK retailer,

Argos, on social media to explain that she’d lost a soft toy bought from the store – one that her child would not sleep without – the team went above and beyond the call of duty to find a replacement. They were out of stock in every UK store, the manufacturer had discontinued them, but a box was eventually found in the clearance section of a website in Ireland.

The mother was overjoyed and shared her joy on social, becoming a notable brand advocate.[xiv] Develop a clear escalation policy to senior managers for when a crisis breaks, or a communication goes viral for all the wrong reasons.

And on a related note, build a supervisor approval loop to help with training and feedback to customer service agents; this should help prevent the occurrence of poor customer interaction (direct from your end, at least)
occurring in the first place.

An overall company culture that makes your employees feel valued and happy will, in turn, rub off on the way that your customer-facing staff interact with customers on social media. After all, these employees will be the voice of your brand and, treated well, will be proud to serve your customers impeccably.

Where, in particular, the people providing customer service are concerned, start to see them not just as care-givers, but as social sellers. After all, their advocacy and influence is extremely powerful. Just like a sales team, consider providing targets and incentives to reward performance.

Develop social cohesion throughout company departments A social customer service strategy can only excel if it is integrated into the ecosystem of your company as a whole - from your traditional support channels, to marketing, product development teams, and beyond.

Plan and communicate between teams to ensure that you are aware of one another’s activity and utilise the same social management tools, and you’ll be much better prepared for potential spikes in activity. As a way to demonstrate the usefulness of this approach, consider the two following scenarios:

A frustrated passenger is sending tweets reporting that his flight has been delayed for five hours, causing him to miss an important business meeting.

These tweets are spotted by the airline's customer service representative, who is able to see from previous tweets and previous purchases that the person is a frequent flyer and a loyal customer.

In addition to an apology, the customer service representative is able to send an electronic voucher – designed by the promotions department - that can be used to claim some free refreshments while they wait.

An angry mother is ranting on Facebook because she cannot assemble the toy robot that she bought for her son's birthday. It's getting late and her son is becoming more upset by the minute.

The company representative spots the complaint and directs the customer to a step-by-step video tutorial on YouTube – built by the marketing department - to help her resolve the issue.

What these scenarios have in common is the use of traditional customer service information combined with data, interactions, and metrics attained from the social network. Such effective multi-channel integration, resulting in targeted, real-time communication and problem solving, is crucial to raising the bar with customer service on social.

How to Set Up A Social Listening Strategy for Social Customer Service
When someone mentions your business on social media, either directly (expecting a response) or indirectly (or not), then you should know about it and be ready to react and - where necessary - respond.

Social listening is the process of monitoring social media to find meaningful mentions, insights, and conversations about your brand - company feedback, questions, comments, etc. - in order to discover opportunities to reply to and influence customers - essential for a strong customer service strategy.

Social listening can be used to spot customer service issues and respond to them in real-time, discover brand advocates, build awareness of your brand through conversations that arise, initiate contact with industry influencers, and it provides valuable audience insight.

Before continuing, it's important to make the distinction between social listening and social monitoring – two phrases that are often banded together, but have very distinct meanings: Social monitoring is a "catch all", face-value approach that recognizes every single mention of your brand and chosen keywords and looks no deeper.

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Before continuing, it's important to make the distinction between social listening and social monitoring – two phrases that are often banded together, but have very distinct meanings: Social monitoring is a "catch all", face-value approach that recognizes every single mention of your brand and chosen keywords and looks no deeper.

Social listening, meanwhile involves more of a critical, emotional, and analytical approach, which takes into account matters like sentiment (how people feel about you), where people are talking about you, and patterns that may appear.

Social monitoring certainly has its uses (more automated, less of a drain on your precious time, etc.), but social listening provides you with a more meaningful way to connect with your audience.

Jim Doherty from the digital marketing journal, leaderswest, provides a valuable way to help you cut through the noise to uncover opportunities that best benefit your business: “Generating actionable insights from social listening means being able to create structure around unstructured data.

Of course, unstructured data accounts for the vast majority of content that resides in social networks, blogs, wikis and ratings and review sites…. success in social listening means improving the signal-to-noise ratio….

(this) means honing in on the small fraction of consumer-generated posts and comments that are relevant to the brand and that may yield actionable insights while eliminating the ‘static,’ which is all the content with no value to the brand.

“[xv] In addition to Doherty’s thoughts, I would remind you to mark social listening data – the greater whole rather than individual mentions – with a caveat. A 2015 Vision Critical study found that 85 percent of what you hear from social listening comes from only 29 percent of your audience[xvi]; the most active and vocal group do not necessarily represent the opinions of your audience as a whole.

In addition, if your business attracts a younger demographic, their opinions might be better represented on a social network where data capture is less widely available – like Snapchat, compared to the huge swathes of information that can be gleamed from Facebook and Twitter.

In short, social listening most certainly can provide valuable business insights and opportunities to engage, but should never be relied upon to determine your entire business strategy.

How to setup a social listening strategy Identify your targets
Where your customers go to get customer service from your business will depend on their preferred social network(s) – and obviously, this is where you should focus your resources.

From the advice in the last chapter, you should already have a good idea which these are, but if you don’t, now is a good time to stop and find out !
That done, the easiest way to get started with social listening is to identify a selection of keywords or phrases that you want to track mentions of.

Obviously, this should include your brand name (good mentions, bad mentions, or indifferent – they are all opportunities to engage) but you might also want to consider things like:

Your competitors' brand names (so that you can react to customers they miss, or if they host special promotions that you want to counteract). a company, industry, or promotion-specific hashtag keywords related to problems that your business can solve: your customers’ pain points – their needs, frustrations, and people asking for recommendations.

Your target audience’s likes and dislikes Phrases that customers might use when complaining about your brand, e.g. “[your brand name] + why can’t”, “[your brand name] + how do I”, [your brand name + problem]”. It goes without saying that the more keywords and phrases you choose, the  bigger the potential for opportunities to engage with mentions of said keywords and phrases becomes.

However, you don't want to become overwhelmed or to dilute your ability to listen well, so perhaps just start off with one or two and go from there. Jenny Sussin, research director at Gartner also relays some intriguing insights into how the way that you listen can save time and generate actionable results:

“If all you’re going to do is monitor for a two-word mention of your brand name, you’re going to get a lot of crap and have to sift through it which will be time-consuming.

I always tell my clients to think about it in the form of a question.
So maybe if you're Coca Cola, you might say something like “what do people like about Pepsi's flavour” and then you could set up a query that correlates to that question.

So instead of just searching for the name Pepsi, instead of just searching for the term ‘better’, instead of just searching for a positive sentiment, you're looking for something very specific and you're looking for something that can help you with product development.

Maybe another question that you may want to ask is “what do people like about Pepsi's brand name”. Then you'll start looking at things like colour and you'll start looking into the logo.

These are very specific things that you're searching for that can bring you to a business action and so what I advise my clients is put it in the form of a question and set up your query to meet the demands of that question and that's the most important thing.”[xvii]

Note: Research conducted by Mention in 2014[xviii] found that over 30% of tweets containing company names did not include said company's Twitter @handle. So, if you're not listening for mentions without your "@handle", you're potentially missing out on a huge chunk of chances to engage.

For even more complete searches, try including similar spellings or common misspellings that are related to your brand or listening topic.

Choose your listening tools Social listening can mean something as simple as manually checking your social profiles for mentions two or three times a day, and searching for the keywords and phrases that you identified earlier.

However, as a more efficient and effective way of carrying out the task, you’re much better off relying on automated tools – simply let them do their job while you carry on with other tasks, then assign a time to check in and see what needs your attention.

Let’s take a look at some different monitoring tools and how to use them: Native social network notifications All of the big social networks will allow you to set up email notifications to brief you about mentions and messages on your business’ profile or page. Here’s a quick look at the options available for three of the most popular: Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Facebook: In the Settings of your Facebook Page, click Notifications in the sidebar and you will be able to toggle when, and how often, Facebook notifies you on the site – and by email – every time there is activity, or a message, on your Page. Twitter: Twitter’s email notification options are much more comprehensive than Facebook’s.

Accessed via the Email Notifications option within Twitter Settings, they offer a myriad of options including activity related to you and your tweets (mentions, favorites, replies, follows, etc.), activity related to your retweets (when retweets are marked as favorites or when they are retweeted), and activity from your network (top tweets and stories, overall performance of tweets, and other recommendations).

Pinterest: Pinterest’s email notification options can – you guessed it – be found in the Notifications section of your Account Settings. From here, you can toggle options to receive notices including when people interact with your pins and your account,  and whether you want these to come from everyone, or just people you follow.

Web tools and apps Google Alerts:
is advertised as a way to “monitor the web for interesting new content.” In the case of social listening, all of that content is yours !  Simply type in a keyword of phrase that you want to be alerted about, then play with the options to select how often you want to be alerted, from which sources, how many results you receive, etc.

Talkwalker Alerts: As an alternative to Google Alerts, be sure to check out Talkwalker Alerts (, which claims to lift more high quality, relevant results than its competitor. As well as alerts being delivered to your email inbox, you can also choose to receive them in your RSS Feed reader.

Real-time alerts Email notifications are sufficient as a social listening method for many small businesses: receive the notification, and batch handle the responses. However, if you think you'd benefit from the ability to listen and react to queries in real time, there are plenty of tools to help you do that, although there is a cost associated, normally a monthly subscription.

Whichever tools you decide to listen to the social activity of your audience and whether you decide on a free or paid option, make sure that they allow you to meet your goals for social customer service in as efficient a manner as possible.

Measure sentiment to gauge your brand’s social media health Sentiment analysis is a way to get an overview of the feelings and emotions of an audience in response to your brand - normally graded as positive, negative, or neutral. Depending on the size of your audience, manually measuring sentiment isn't a fast or easy task.

It would involve recording every mention, and scoring each one individually.  Thankfully, there are plenty of tools out there that will provide automatic sentiment analysis; a way to provide you with a general overview of your brand's health without the massive time drain of doing it all manually.

The same tools can also be used to tell you how your brand or product is being perceived compared to your main rivals, help you to judge the success of new product launches or initiatives, and – if there is a sharp change in the sentiment – help you to prepare for, or avoid, a social media crisis.

A selection of popular paid social media sentiment-measuring tools:

If the aim of your social listening strategy is to take you beyond simple “search and react” activity, to a stage where you would like to measure people’s sentiment towards your brand, then I’d recommend setting a benchmark first.

Set aside some time (e.g. one week, one month) to see, on average, what the percentage split is between the three different types of sentiment. Once you have a benchmark to refer to, you will be able to tell whether your new or revised social efforts are making a real, data-driven difference to your business.

For argument’s sake, setting some time aside to review sentiment vs. your benchmark once per quarter will help you determine whether you need to keep things going on the same track, or to change course to improve.

Summing up Earlier on, we explored what attributes a really effective social media customer care agent needs and in following chapters, we’ll take a specific look at handling complaints on social media (one of the major listening points) and when you might choose not to engage; but whenever you assess any opportunity to interact with a customer,

it pays to remember that your response must be authentic, sincere, and – where possible - valuable. Social listening is a skill that takes time and practice to perfect, but getting good could provide far-reaching benefits for your business.

Lighten Your Load: Be Proactive,
Help Customers Help Themselves 75% of customers say self service is a convenient way to address customer service issues, and 67% prefer it over speaking to a real person – Nuance Enterprise, [xix] If you have a social media presence, receiving customer service enquiries via social media is an inevitability.

In later chapters, I’ll cover how best to handle interactions when they arise, but first I want to stress the importance of, and give you some tips to help prevent some of them coming your way (particularly the negative ones!),

What to do if you typically receive the same kinds of questions over and over again, and how you can go one step further by approaching customers before they come to you, or follow-up with customers who have already been dealt with.

The benefits of a proactive approach to customer service
Many businesses do not put a proactive customer service strategy in place because they are used to operating a reactive-only approach, or worried about the extra cost and resources involved. However, research shows that the benefits can often outweigh the investment.

A 2013 study by inContact discovered that 87% of customers wanted to be contacted proactively by a business that they have used, and more than seven in ten respondents said that, after having been contacted proactively, their perception of the business getting in touch with them had improved.[xx]

inContact’s data refers to telephone calls, but a similar kind of follow-up on social media, would, you imagine, be welcomed by customers too.

In the long term, a proactive approach can help to improve customer retention and loyalty, and reduce the volume of incoming issues. Tips and strategies When building your social media customer service strategy, it is useful to see things from your customers’ perspective.

When they want answers, they want to find them quickly, so part of your job is to make this process as easy as possible – be proactive so that you don’t have to be reactive later on down the line.

Before they email, call, or turn to social media, their first port of call is likely to be your website; use it as a hub for all of the kinds of information that won’t require – or will prevent the need for – human intervention.

Some simple action steps include: Building a FAQs page on your website – and making it very visible – in order to catch and solve the most common of customer queries with no additional labor on your part.

It is crucial that you target all of the above resources at your customers’ level of knowledge and ability. The last thing you want is to promise them self-serve help and fail, forcing them to raise a complaint. Filming video tutorials to help customers better understand your products, and guide them through everything they will need to know.

These videos can be hosted on your website, YouTube, or even posted natively on the social network: Above: In a move touted by Forbes as making customer support history, Beats By Dre support began tweeting support videos natively on its Twitter account.[xxi]

A blog page to keep customers up to date with all of the latest news and information about your business and new product releases.

A community-driven forum, where passionate fans and brand ambassadors can pool their own knowledge to help one another out.

With this option, of course, customers may expect an official representative to be on hand, and you may have to spend time moderating posts.

Use social listening and monitoring to understand the types of issues that customers often ask about, and use this to build and update your self-serve platform.


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