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Customers do not want a relationship with your business, they want the benefits a relationship can offer to them.

According to a recent IBM report entitled From Social Media to Social CRM, What Customers Want, this fact is going to come as a surprise to many businesses.  Check out the graphic below:

Consumer vs Business perception gap chart

There is an insightful commentary on the findings from Mitch Lieberman here (he’s responsible for the title of this post) where he concludes: “I am not going to go retro and start defining Social CRM, been there, done that! I am going to suggest that you need to start thinking like a customer, outside-in, not inside out. It is not about control of the conversation, it is about mutually beneficial value. A fair exchange.” What Mitch is suggesting is that businesses need to start with what consumers really value and work backwards from there to ensure that the social engagement experiences they are creating are working towards those ends; social engagement isn’t an end in and of itself for the company or the customer. Given the intense focus on driving Fans and Followers, the IBM findings on why people spend time on social networks are also enlightening. While the number who go to interact with brands is far more significant that we would have imagined, it’s clearly not what the majority of consumers are looking for, which is interacting with people they know.

Top reasons consumers visit social networking sites

IBM discusses what they call “The advocacy paradox” – are you creating new advocates on Facebook or simply getting existing advocates to raise their hands?  IBM says: “Is it the chicken or the egg? Most businesses believe social media will increase advocacy, but only 38 percent of consumers agree, and more than 60 percent believe passion for a business or brand is a prerequisite for social media engagement. Companies need to find creative ways to tap the power of the trusted social community.” IBM concludes: “What does all this mean for business? Organizations need to be aware that less than half their customer base is likely to interact with them in a social media environment. In other words, consumers who engage already have an affinity for that brand or company, and mere participation via social media may not necessarily result in increased loyalty or spending. But a recommendation from a friend or family member could make a difference.” These findings suggest two things:

  1. Businesses need to do more to tap into the advocates they already have, and
  2. Businesses need to provide ways for people to engage with each other about their brand or business or products, not necessarily with the brand themselves.

One important way to do this is to engage advocates on the company website Many companies – including Gigya clients like Intuit, Coca-Cola, Verizon, and Barneys New York – are now taking advantage of the opportunity to use their own websites to engage with these key advocates and potential advocates. People visiting the company website or purchasing products are already a self-selected group who have demonstrated interest and often much more. Perhaps this is why Jeremiah Owyang calls 2011 the year of “Social Integration for Websites.”  It’s also why at Gigya we’re particularly excited about our Social Analytics – helping sites understand and engage those of their customers that are contributing the most to word-of-mouth advocacy activity, and whose activities are having real impact in new customer acquisition.

By Kevin White

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