Social Media Helps Build Bridges to Customers

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
social media builds bridges with customers

JetBlue and the UN Foundation are just two of the organizations that use social media tools to engage their customers in personal, creative and holistic ways.

Sherinian explains that social media provides a bottoms-up approach. "When it is used effectively, social media creates an ecosystem that works in a very effective way," he says. "People can interact and coalesce. They can share information and take action as a community."

The foundation has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other services, but it increasingly strives for greater integration across services and channels. "Social media is now a part of our DNA," Sherinian reports. "It's not just about building a platform; it's about enabling interaction and creating a level of engagement that really makes a difference."

The UN Foundation has focused on finding ways to drive discussions around key issues and challenges. It uses software from Dynamic Signal to facilitate and integrate online communication. For example, the organization participates in a Giving Tuesday (#GivingTuesday) campaign that revolves around participants "celebrating giving in their lives." It also relies on a social media program called +SocialGood, which allows people to share news and stories about events in their communities on a global basis.

The payoff has been significant, according to Sherinian. "The community helps us identify mega-messages, discussion points and targets," he says. "It guides us through strategic processes. We're no longer talking to them. We're now holding up a microphone to their thoughts and ideas."

In fact, the organization views participants as social media ambassadors for the organization. Their posts and tweets influence others in their circle, driving further discussion and contributions. "There's a level of spontaneity and authenticity that isn't possible if we simply push out news and information," he says.

The approach also has yielded significant financial results. The UN Foundation witnessed a 53 percent uptick in donations during the Giving Tuesday 2012 campaign, and it expects an uptick in 2013 as well.

"Things pivot and move faster today than at any point in history," Sherinian points out. "You can't wait days or weeks for approvals. You have to move quickly and have real-time conversations. Leadership must be more open to authentic conversations that don't always go the way you would like or have planned."

In the final analysis, Accenture's Dempski says, organizations must view social media technology as a way to better understand consumer sentiment, capture ideas about new products or product improvements, and engage in an ongoing dialog about a company or brand. It's critical to build the strategy, processes and IT systems to support this new world.

"If you look at what thousands of people are saying in online reviews or examine how they are thinking, you can begin to understand the business and overall marketplace in a way that wasn't possible in the past," he concludes.

This article was originally published on 2013-11-21

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for Baseline.

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