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Social marketing success begins with a strategy

4 min read

Brands & Campaigns

Social data and analytics are all the rage these days, but what precisely should companies do with the information they collect? In the case of hotel chain Best Western, the answer was to engage with customers through social media. It partnered with SaaS customer experience management company Medallia to boost TripAdvisor scores for participating properties.

In this Q&A, Michelle de Haaff, Medallia’s vice president of marketing and a self-declared social media junkie, offer their tips for successful social media engagement with customers, advice on how to handle social data and thoughts on ways that mobile is reshaping how brands and consumers interact.

Companies are collecting more data about their customers, but making sense of that data remains a challenge. What are some best practices for marketers who are trying to glean insights from the vast trove of social data available to them?

At the most basic level, you need a system for organizing that data, benchmarks to measure it against and a process for tracking it over time. Making decisions about social data on an ad-hoc basis — or in isolation from other types of feedback — can lead to miscalculations.

Also, since most social data is unstructured, it’s important to have a good text analytics capability. This helps you easily glean insights from your vast trove of social data quicker — and more efficiently — than reviewing every social comment manually.

Can you think of specific examples of companies that have changed strategies successfully based on social data insights?

Certainly! One of our customers in the hospitality industry changed everything from how they set up their breakfast to what towels they offered at different locations based on insights from social data.

Best Western is another good example. What they’ve done is simply paid attention to and responded to social feedback in a systematic way. They know there’s a treasure trove of customer experience data in social sites, but they found that the mere process of engaging with social comments — positive or negative — led to better results. So they made the strategic decision to invest in Medallia to allow their properties to engage consistently with social feedback on-site. Among other benefits, the properties that used Medallia systematically saw TripAdvisor score increases of an average of 30 percent.

How has mobile transformed how users interact with brands through social media?

Mobile technology has put the internet — and by extension, social media — in the pocket of every consumer. It gives consumers the opportunity to share their opinions about brands in real time — often right after interacting with them — and makes those sentiments far more accessible for others. This has been an important factor in a shift that’s happening across industries, where real-world information about customer experiences is overtaking brands as the primary determinant of customer loyalty and opinion.

Given the power of user reviews and social feedback in forming customers’ opinions of brands, what can marketers do to encourage positive reviews and mitigate that effects of negative ones?

The number one thing companies can do is provide great experiences for their customers!

Additionally, though, it’s important to encourage customers to post reviews on social sites. This can help companies see more representative feedback online — and balance out the effects of unsolicited social feedback, which tends towards more the extremes of customer sentiment. You should make it as easy as possible for your customers to post these reviews, ideally by embedding a request for their feedback everywhere — on your website, at the end of surveys, and even on your products.

Michelle de Haaff leads marketing at Medallia and has over 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, product management and strategic partnering in Silicon Valley. She spends her free time with her three very active sons and her smartphone, constantly checking the buzz on social media.

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