social support with online communities

reorganizing around the social customer for business advantage

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intro why social support what is social support why you need peer-to-peer engagement successful social support solution must-haves summary

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we help companies unlock the passion of their customers.
The Lithium Social Customer Suite allows brands to build vibrant customer communities that:
reduce service costs with grow brand advocay with drive sales with innovate faster with

social support

social marketing

social commerce

social innovation | © 2012 Lithium Technologies, Inc. All Rights Reserved


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Customers are no longer content to passively consume your advertising. They want to engage in conversations with your brand and they don’t care what department they reach. They want to dialog with your brand whenever and however they choose. They want the companies they buy from to be responsive, to acknowledge and reward their feedback, and provide all these experiences quickly, cohesively and in an engaging way. And they’ve discovered they can get much of it by interacting with each other through social networks. They’re blogging and Tweeting about your promotions and campaigns, helping each other with common questions, solving product issues and sharing ideas and enthusiasm for your brand across social media every day. The social media revolution has irrevocably changed the way people communicate—with each other and with the brands they purchase and support. Thirty-seven percent of consumers now report that the primary reason they interact

with brands across social media is to find customer service —a figure that is expected to grow enormously in the next 12 to 24 months. Gartner predicts that social CRM will be a $1 bill market by 2012 The good news/bad news is that while 80% of CEOs report that getting closer to their customers is a top priority , they remain unclear on exactly how social media can help them get there. The question of whether your businesses should engage with customers using social media has been answered with a resounding “yes!” Today’s most successful social brands are tapping into the power of social media to build not only closer customer relationships, but brand nations—places where customers can connect with and support each other, influence your products, share their enthusiasm for your brand and carry its flag out into the world on your behalf.

how consumers use social media
Consumers report that after connecting with a brand through social media, they • • • feel a sense of trust with the brand feel like an insider with the brand, and feel that the company cares about them.

of consumers now begin the path to purchase through social media

of consumers use social media for customer service

of consumers state that they prefer to engage with the brand through social media after making a purchase


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why social support
the business value of social customer solutions
Customer expectations today are enormous and social customers especially are fully empowered to make significant demands upon the brands they engage. The old adage that one dissatisfied customer tells ten others takes on new meaning on a platform like Facebook where your customer’s voice could very well now reach millions. Today’s top brands aren’t simply adapting to the disruptive force of social media, they’re embracing it whole hog. They’re rethinking traditional support strategies at the speed of innovation and re-engineering the kinds of customer relationships they want to develop, centering them on collaboration and engagement.

Social media technology gives companies access to previously untapped value in customer generated content and the brand advocates that produce it. Here are things top brands are motivating their customers to with social customer solutions: Innovate: Collectively, your customers know as much or more about your product usage than you do. They have terrific ideas for product improvements and new capabilities. Promote: The web is a giant word-of-mouth megaphone for your customers. Listen to them, acknowledge and reward their input, amplify their voices and they can create a groundswell of support for your brand. Support: Peer-to-peer support, often one of the first social initiatives for many companies, is one of the best ways for social customers to get answers—and often the preferred service channel—resulting in significant savings from call deflection.


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what is social support

Imagine a conversation about your company’s products on Twitter: @brandcop145: Does #widget come with good service? A customer advocate takes note and tweets the thread in reply. @WidgetFun: @brandcop145: check out what the #widget community has to say: You social marketing manager sees the question in the Twitter feed and brings the question into your company’s forum, where other community members can respond. Now, you own the all the data generated around the question and anyone who follows your company has access to it. @brandcop145 visits the Widget Fun customer community and not only sees how others have answered his question, but can also have deeper conversations—ask specific questions and get answers from experienced users. Social support—building unassisted support channels through social media—works so well because it scales so well. Enabling social customers to help each other vastly extends the reach of your service arm at minimal cost. But, simply plugging social channels directly into your service organization won’t get you there. The ability for social customers to support each other is wholly dependent upon the underlying customer network that binds them. Without a critical mass of customer advocates—a passionately engaged brand nation—the integration of your listening technology, your CRM system and your community platform won’t do much to drive real business outcomes.


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why you need peer-to-peer engagement

To derive real value from the conversations happening across your customer network—to turn them into something meaningful and productive—the first task at hand is to enable them to talk to each other. The problem lies in the fact that when it comes to today’s social customers, most support systems are inside out. Designed with the company’s needs in mind, for the agent or the manager looking for a sales optimization report, businesses are missing opportunities to connect with customers who want to engage in relationships with their brands in meaningful ways—across every level of the organization. For every one-to-one conversation between the company and a customer or prospect, the company is missing hundreds or even thousands of conversations between customers, influencers, and prospects. The social web is forcing those who care about customer relationships to expand their thinking beyond the optimization of a two-way relationship between the brand and the customer and find ways to enable simultaneous relationships between the customers themselves.

Winning companies are embracing the social revolution and reorganizing themselves around the new social customer— the empowered, impatient, vocal and very giving social customer. These companies are better engaged with their customers not only one-to-one, but also in the increasingly important peer-to peer, many-to-many venues where their customers now live and breathe. Peer-to-peer engagement gives them the opportunity to turn good customers into better ones and the best customers into full-fledged brand advocates—their most passionately engaged superfans. Those who build brand nations with more superfans than their competitors are gaining unparalleled advantage.


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successful social support solution must-haves

Social support—the point at which online customer communities, social networks, and traditional customer service meet—is growing up. In order to meet the growing list of demands your social customers are making on your brand (and that your competitor is satisfying, by the way), brands must both build their own social presence and reach out across the larger social web. Here are the must-haves for a successful social support solution:

2. User profiling and reputation management
The ability to identify and cultivate those who will amplify your brand message—your advocates, influencers and superfans— is crucial. But before you can mobilize your advocates, you have to find out who’s talking and know what they’re saying. Social media, by its very transparent nature, is of tremendous assistance to companies in the perpetual quest to know and market to their customers better. Through social media, not only can companies listen to their customers, they can also observe how they behave in social situations, measure their impact in the marketplace, and connect with them directly. Now, more than ever, reputation matters. In the world of Social CRM, a good customer is no longer the one who buys the most. A reputation system that identifies the most active contributors lets marketers easily reward members’ participation and nurture their positive behavior. A reputation management system is also essential to enable content consumers—who far outnumber content creators— to separate the useful from the non-useful and categorize content as relevant and trustworthy, immediately adding value to otherwise anonymous advice or reviews. Networks like Yelp and eBay thrive on user reputation. A strong reputation fosters trust among the community members and makes the individual more influential.

1. An online community
An online community is your brand’s beachhead in the social web and a jumping-off point for future inroads. It’s the cornerstone of a social support solution—a business tool that encourages participation and interaction among social customers who don’t know one another. Online communities help brands to get social customers to trust each other, help each other and advocate for your brand. Community is at the heart of all social customer solutions because the community is the means by which customers become brand citizens. The most common online communities include forums, blogs, chat, idea exchanges, and wikis. Online community members typically use social bookmarking, tagging, RSS feeds, and search to organize and access the community content they’re most interested in.


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3. Social Web Integration
You already have a customer network. Conversations about your band and products are happening on Facebook, on Twitter, and on hundreds of similar social sites every day. And more and more of them will continue to happen regardless of whether or not your brand joins in. The most successful social brands today are so because they are not only listening to but diving headlong into these social customer conversations with gusto. They listen, acknowledge, respond, reward, explore and engage their social customers wherever they are—in online communities, on Facebook and Twitter, and through mobile devices. In the process, they’re tapping a veritable gold mine of business intelligence— spontaneous, unsolicited market feedback—which gives them the capability meet customer needs, improve satisfaction, to build long term customer loyalty and maximize customer lifetime value.

4. CRM integration
Simply showing up and listening is not enough. Successful social support systems are based on strong ties from the social web to the company’s internal processes, allowing all parts of the enterprise to take action. Today’s most competitive brands are not simply capturing marketing feedback, but acting upon it. They’re folding all the valuable data they glean from social media into their business processes, knowledge stores, sales prospecting, and marketing automation tools.

5. Actionable analytics
The most social competitive brands look for data-driven insights that point to trends and optimal paths to ROI. In the fast-evolving world of the social web, companies are constantly iterating on their social engagement practices, trying new strategies and learning from both their successes and failures. Solid analytics are essential for all of the varied stakeholders in the enterprise to measure the effectiveness of their programs and to make course corrections as needed. All of the interactions that occur in a community are generating a gold mine of data for the company. In the hands of people who can act on it immediately, this data gives companies a tremendous competitive advantage. The close proximity that companies have to their own community data lets them respond to rapidly shifting conditions at web speed.


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A social revolution has changed the way people communicate— with each other and with the brands they purchase and support. In the wake of this revolution, customers are no longer content to be passive consumers of advertising; instead, they want to engage in a conversation with their brands. They want the companies they buy from to be responsive and to acknowledge their feedback.

Social customer conversations will continue to create buzz— good or bad—regardless of whether or not brands join in. A social support solution taps into the enormous latent value in social customer networks and turns them into brand nations: An online community of empowered social customers who willingly support and assist each other, enthusiastically rally around your brand and your products, and give you feedback that helps you keep your competitive advantage.

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Lithium social solutions helps the world’s most iconic brands to build brand nations—vibrant online communities of passionate social customers. Lithium helps top brands such as AT&T, Sephora, Univision, and PayPal build active online communities that turn customer passion into social media marketing ROI. For more information on how to create lasting competitive advantage with the social customer experience, visit, or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and our own brand nation – the Lithosphere. | © 2012 Lithium Technologies, Inc. All Rights Reserved


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