Business Strategy on Facebook

By David F. Carr Print this article Print

See also 11 Tips for Businesses on Facebook Rosetta Stone does not leave customer interaction on Facebook to chance. Instead, the company uses software and strategy to get the most out of social media. Related: 30 Facts About Social Nets at Work.

Rosetta Stone is not afraid to mix it up with customers on Facebook.

“If you want to say a competitor’s product is better, we let you have at it,” says Jay Topper, senior vice president of customer success at the language-instruction software company. “We may answer it, or we may watch our customers answer it – that’s really fun.”Often the grumpiest critics can be converted into true fans, given a constructive response.

But Rosetta Stone is not leaving such encounters to chance. Instead, it has a clear strategy that involves both human intervention and an investment in software to help monitor its social networking presence.

Companies considering Facebook invariably ask, “But wait, suppose somebody posts something negative? What do we do then?” That’s the dilemma of meeting customers where they congregate online. When you create a Facebook business page, by default the service allows other members of the service – potentially including disgruntled customers or sleazy competitors – to post notes to your Wall, or comment on what you’ve posted. (For the uninitiated, the Wall is a sort of threaded discussion board associated with each Facebook page or profile).

Yet if you turn off the feature that lets others write on your Wall, people may wonder what you’re afraid of. You’ll also be foreclosing the possibility of having great customer fan conversations take place, perhaps marketing your products and services better than you could do yourself. You can delete posts, but that may only encourage the post author to scream louder about being censored.Most social media marketing experts advise deleting only the most offensive posts, and trying to address the rest as constructively as possible.

That’s the policy that has been working for Rosetta Stone. One challenge posed by this strategy is that customer service teams need to retool in order to monitor these wall posts and respond to them appropriately; that can be a big job on an active page. Rosetta Stone is among the first enterprises to address this challenge in a systematic way.

Fans of www.facebook.com/RosettaStone who post a question on the Wall are likely to get a prompt answer because the Facebook page is integrated with customer service software from Parature Inc. The new Parature for Facebook module also adds a Support tab to the page, where customers can submit a more structured request for help that goes into the system as a standard support “ticket.”“

This is just an additional channel,” Topper says. “What it says to our customers is, ‘We’ll meet you on your turf.’” Topper says he isn’t really trying to drive customers to this channel, as opposed to the phone or the company website -- at least not yet. So far, the Facebook plug-in seems to be resulting in a higher overall level of interaction with customers and potential customers.

The software helps by scanning Wall postings and flagging those that require a company response, as opposed to those that represent fans of the page talking among themselves. Through the PayPal application programming interface, customer service representatives are also able to post a response to the Wall that will be logged in the Parature issue tracking database. The customer service software is also integrated with Facebook chat.

In the first 30 days since the release of Parature for Facebook, the company says it has signed more than 25 customers, with Rosetta Stone as the first to go live with the product. “Offering this kind of support on Facebook is very new, but what’s not new is customers having conversations around the Facebook Wall,” says Duke Chung, Parature's founder and Chief Strategy Officer. Even if those conversations are critical, it’s better that customers have them on your company’s Wall, where you can respond to them, than on their own personal Walls.

Some issues can’t be easily resolved within Facebook’s informal communications mechanisms, which is why customers are also offered the option of creating a support ticket. But now they can do it without leaving Facebook, providing an extra “convenience factor,” Chung says. That’s important because Facebook addicts are proving much more likely to interact with a Facebook page than they are to follow a link to an external website. The Support tab also lets visitors search the Parature knowledge base or start a live chat with an agent.

In the process, Topper says the company has opened up a new sales channel. “Even the people clicking support, and initiating a chat – a lot of them are not customers,” he says, and so the customer service agent becomes a “success agent,” encouraging that person in the quest to learn a new language.

This article was originally published on 2010-09-22
David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.
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