SMPL Q&A is a blog feature in which we interview experts on all things relevant to branding, design and simplicity. In this Q&A we speak with senior strategy director Lisa Kane and strategist Jenna Isken about the ever-changing role that social media plays in customer experience.
Are brands held to a certain standard when it comes to communicating via social media?
Lisa Kane – Yes. It’s the same as with any other type of communication. Brands should tailor content strategy and tone to the channel. What you say in a newsletter is different from a billboard, website or form letter. Social media touch points are just more accessible. So when you don’t have that strategy in place, it’s obvious and creates a jarring experience.
Jenna Isken – Brands are held to the expectation of the platform. Most social media platforms were developed with the intention of connecting people, not brands. Therefore, the expectation of brands on these platforms is to interact in a human-like way—speak authentically, react in a timely manner, and try not to disruptively push an agenda.
How has social media strategy changed over the last couple of years?
Jenna Isken: When brands first started embracing social platforms, the strategy was to take what was published in print and just push the content to Facebook or Instagram, or take a TV commercial and post it to YouTube. Brands used social media solely to generate awareness. Today, the brands that are most savvy with social media use this channel to build and foster an ongoing relationship with their consumers by creating a value-centric destination within the platforms.
Lisa Kane: The evolution is also apparent in how brands measure success. Previously, success was measured by the accumulation of likes. While brands often still consider engagement to be “likes” or “views,” the focus has shifted to whether social content influences customer behavior or initiates conversation. With this newly realized measurement for success, brands are able to have an improved focus on converting views into meaningful, relationship-building activities.
How do you convey and deliver on a brand’s promise through social media?
Lisa Kane: First, brands should think about which social channels they should use. Where are your customers and what are they using those channels for? Once you identify that social media is the right place to reach your customers, curating a hub of value-adding content is key. And knowing the right partners to deliver on your brand promise can be an innovative and powerful approach to socially engaging your audience. Last year’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and Humans of New York (HONY) social media project is an ideal demonstration.
MSKCC, the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center teamed up with HONY, a well-followed, NY-based photo blog, for an award-winning two-week campaign. With a clear vision for the partnership, MSKCC set three goals: raise funds for pediatric cancer research, give MSKCC cancer patients a platform to share their journeys and provide staff a space to share their expertise. Over 14 days, HONY shared over 50 photos of patients and their families, and MSK staff.
The social storytelling campaign generated over three million dollars for pediatric cancer research, and added 10 million new Facebook fans and three thousand new Instagram followers to MSKCC’s community. The co-creation strategy allowed MSKCC and HONY to share and exchange experiences that were genuinely aligned with each brand’s promise, which not only contributed to its success but made a positive impression on the lives of all those involved.
Jenna Isken: Brands should also consider whether they have the right resources to manage a social platform, and whether they’re committed to investing in these platforms on an on-going basis. The brands that live their promise, the ones who make it about more than words on a screen, are the ones who succeed. These tend to be the brands that have a clear sense of what they’re saying and how they’re participating. How responsive or informative are they? Do they communicate primarily through images, words or lists? You need to figure out who you want to reach and how.
Which brands are using social media to enhance their customer experience?
Lisa Kane: Geico is smart about the way they use Twitter. They have two accounts. The Geico account is dedicated to responding to customers and providing service-based communication. The Geico Gecko has an account, too, which is dedicated to humanizing their brand promise by following the lizard as he fulfills his job of helping people save money on car insurance. This strategy allows the brand to both service the customer and nurture their customer relationships.
Jenna Isken: TSA is not an organization that you would expect to have a strong social presence, however; they’ve really seized the opportunity that Instagram offers. Their feed tells the compelling and relatable story of, “Can I bring this with me?” Everyone has been there—frustrated when TSA confiscates something you didn’t realize was banned. They’ve succeeded in creating a value-centric destination that serves useful information and entertaining content, which ultimately allows the TSA brand to be engaged on a human level.