With nearly 9 in 10 Australian internet users now on social media, it’s more important than ever for businesses to move into the digital era. Brolly was proud to be one of the major sponsors of the Akolade Social Media WA Summit 2019, where social media experts and business representatives came together to discuss digital innovation and provide solutions around social media strategy.
We thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to interact with range of presenters and valued guests, all of whom had a wealth of knowledge to share. We were also delighted to speak on ‘the evolution of customer service engagement and its business implications’, an adapted excerpt of which we’ll share below.
How Social Media is Changing Customer Engagement Strategies
In 2006, Facebook debuted the first stream of live-updating social content with the introduction of the Newsfeed, and the way we communicate online changed forever. Generally considered the first true social feed, the Newsfeed feature allowed users, customers and businesses to connect online in ways they never had before, and (for better or worse) turned Facebook into a distributor of real-time information.
For many organisations, the customer service possibilities offered by social media networks were enormous. From the mid-to-late 2000s, the opportunity to provide tailored content to consumers grew as networks evolved from personal platforms into public and highly curated spaces. Companies could maintain active business pages to push tailored content relevant to potential and current customers. They were able to answer questions in real time and run highly-specific and cost-effective advertising campaigns to target audiences.
Consumers could follow their favourite brands and keep informed about their communities through social media, allowing businesses to remain front-of-mind without the need for expensive media blitzes. Social media was, and still is, a place where organisations can easily reach millions of people. However, as more businesses embrace social media customer care, the more prevalent online interactions – both good and bad – become. Customers also have the power to reach the same audience, with a positive or negative influence.
No longer do we rely on lengthy press releases to remain informed or need to bombard a company with emails or calls and hope for a timely response. While this offers a business a lot of value in terms of reach, brand-building potential and advertising opportunities, the two-way nature of customer communication means organisations need to be aware of the digital landscape more than ever, and a failure to develop a robust social media strategy can result in significant reputational damage.
Social Media as a Complaint Resolution Tool
For a growing number of consumers, there is an expectation that any issues they face will be resolved in a timely manner via social networks, as they offer the customer the greatest level of convenience when interacting with a brand.
A recent study by Conversocial found that over half of respondents preferred social media communication to engage with brands than traditional methods such as email, phone or web chat, and it’s hardly surprising.
Why send an email that may be ignored when you can send a tweet that can gain social leverage and public exposure?
Why wait for customer service hours when you can lodge a complaint at 2am?
Why wait on hold when you can post a question and view a response in your own time, at your own convenience?
Customers are aware they now have a public voice, and social media is increasingly being used for complaint resolution, with over two-thirds of respondents expecting companies to offer customer service via their channels. As social media usage increases globally, users are leveraging social media platforms to engage with not just their peers and favourite brands, but organizations including Federal, State and local government bodies.
Striking the Balance Between Transparent and Private Communication
Nearly 9 in 10 Australians now use social media, with 34% checking in more than five times a day. While those aged between 18 – 39 use social media most frequently, at least two-thirds of people across every age bracket 18 and over check their social media at least once a week, making it a truly cross-generational method of communication.
On occasion, posts to a business page may not be appropriate for public consumption or may require follow up which includes personal information. Ensuring maximum transparency while protecting your customer’s right to privacy can be a fine balance, and recent developments in private messaging endeavour to make this experience more seamless.
In the last few years, social media evolution has seen significant rises in engagement via private channels. Internet users are increasingly expecting businesses to be available to them around the clock and placing more trust in businesses who offer the ability to directly message them. Over half of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that businesses should be responsive 24/7.
Facebook Messenger now boasts more 1.3B monthly users, with staggering engagement rates. The average open rate for Australian email is 20.81%, while Hubspot found open rates for Facebook Messenger average 80%, with large increases in click-through rates compared the email. Aside from the obvious privacy benefits, private messaging is often viewed as more personal, with people more likely to rate the effectiveness of messaging a business as “excellent” or “very good” compared to calling on the phone.
Private engagement is not just an opportunity to answer questions. It also sets an expectation that you answer questions thoroughly, honestly, credibly, and within a reasonable timeframe. Be prepared for screenshots to find their way into the public sphere if you don’t! In order to increase trust and highlight the responsiveness of a business via private messaging service, platforms such as Facebook now publicly showcase your response rate and times. Letting customers know when to anticipate a reply can ease concerns around timeliness, and we highly recommend automated messages for those who get in touch outside of your organisation’s business hours to assure them of a response.
With increasing amounts of private communication happening via social media, how do you protect your organisation if a private complaint becomes public, or misinformation about your business goes viral?
Protecting Your Organisation
The communication channels within your organisation have all been around for many years and are very well established.
Phone lines handling help and support enquires are recorded – we’re all familiar with calling a business and being informed that ‘a record of your conversation may be captured for training or administrative purposes’. It’s second nature for your hardcopy records to be archived, scanned and digitally stored. Websites, online forms and community forums are backed-up and archived automatically, and email servers are backed up to store all past email correspondence.
However, records of social media posts and engagement are often overlooked. In many cases, it is only when the availability of these archived records is called into question that it’s even considered, and so national and state archiving bodies are now putting in place requirements around social media archiving.
Brolly has spent the last couple of years working closely with various Australian National and state archiving bodies to better understand the requirements for archiving social media records, and most importantly how recommendations can be actioned by organisations to protect themselves.
As stated by the National Archives of Australia, staff need to create and manage accurate records of their business activities to ensure decisions and actions can be accounted for, including social media activities.
These bodies give guidance about what should be done, but don’t go into how it can be accomplished, leaving it somewhat up to each of the department or agencies to put their own procedures in place. Many agencies understand they should be archiving, but aren’t sure what appropriate archiving looks like, or even why it’s so crucial to keep records.
Why Should We Keep Records?
Why is it important to keep records, aside from protecting yourself and your business in the case of a customer complaint? Different businesses have different reasons for requiring thorough record keeping, but in the case of government organisations, social media records may now be required to respond to an inquest / inquiry, privacy request, audit, Freedom of information (FOI) request or a royal commission.
All government records are considered public record – yes, this includes your posts, replies and private messages! The Freedom of Information Act 1982 requires public access to Commonwealth records that are less than 30 years old and applies to all electronically-stored information such as social media engagements.
So why not just manually keep records? Spreadsheets, manual screenshots and MSWord based ‘message logs’ are just a few examples of the creative attempts to solving this challenge we’ve stumbled upon. All had good intentions, however, manual cut and paste records aren’t reliable, accurate or efficient, and often prove to be an administrative nightmare.
Along with the obvious question around efficiency, you need to consider how your social media records would hold up in court. The Evidence Act 1906 determines what’s expected from records when they are intended to be produced as evidence, with later amendments made to consider digital and social technology. It states that parties may be required to authenticate digital evidence and prove it has not been manipulated, altered, or misrepresented – something a spreadsheet simply can’t provide.
In summation, social media is a customer service tool as much as it is an awareness tool, and this needs to be considered when developing your social media strategy. Ask yourself the following when crafting your strategy:
- Are you aware of relevant digital policy and guidelines?
- Do you know the definition of a ‘record’, and how to keep records in an acceptable format?
- Are you placing too much reliance on native social media channel functionality? Remember, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter local archiving are only a ‘snapshot’ which can be altered and do not comply with record keeping requirements.
- Are you relying on a manual process? Not only is this time consuming, but manual processes don’t stand up to the rigor of an official record request and add little value to the organization.
- Have you underestimated the complexity of record keeping? Metadata, links to external sites and multimedia preservation are all crucial to providing an acceptable record.
- Have you delivered a clear acceptable use/record-keeping policy both publicly and privately?
Social media is complicated – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your organization is covered, so you can focus on providing the best possible service to your customers.
If you missed seeing the Brolly team at the Akolade Social Media WA Summit, you can get in touch with us here – we’d be happy to catch up for a chat about how to make archiving part of your social media strategy going forward.
Don’t forget to catch us at the Akolade 13th Social Media for Gov Summit in Canberra, May 14 – 16.