In this guest post Nicolas Chabot (@nicochabs) of Traackr evaluates how the rise of influencer marketing is challenging existing reputation management and social customer service strategies.
As brands gradually now build up their engagement capabilities across social media, the overlap and synergies of the different tools, technologies and processes they employ becomes an important area for focus and consideration; given both the potential successes and potential pitfalls.
We at Traackr often face confused prospects and clients trying to figure out how to articulate their Customer Care capabilities to online audiences to help mitigate any potential social crises using such tools as Sprinklr or Hootsuite alongside their influencer marketing strategies.
Too often the client response focuses uniquely on the recognition that social media “influencers” should receive priority treatment by Customer Care centres because of the potential impact that negative publicity from such vocal players could attract to the brand. This has led platforms such as Hootsuite to integrate social scores in their engagement dashboard. Lithium even went as far as to acquire and absorb famous scoring tool, Klout.
Not only does this demonstrate a worryingly shallow understanding of ‘influence’, it is also an extremely inefficient means of tackling such an issue; as demonstrated by the experience of Minter Dial with British Airways – supposedly one of the most advanced organisations in the UK in respect to social customer care.
Brand Defensive Vs Brand Offensive/Proactive Play
To put it simply Social Customer Care is about playing defensively and Influencer marketing is about playing on the offensive.
Customer Care and Reputation Management are intimately linked. Typical Customer Care process focuses on measuring and managing user-generated reactions and signals across social media and using these to identify and resolve potential consumer issues or complaints. Social is becoming a faster more efficient way for users to communicate directly with brands as they used to via email or telephone. Promptly resolving user questions on social has also become a key element of reputation management and the fear of “bad publicity” has sometimes been the main driver to convince senior executives to build an online presence for their brand.
Influencer Marketing on the other hand is about taking the initiative by building long term relationships with selected individuals. Successful influencer marketing programs identify their relevant influencers – those individuals that could generate impact for the brand (as opposed to just “influencers” per se) – aiming to specifically and proactively generate positive brand signals from these voices through active engagement programs and content. Influencer Marketing plays offence
Like any effective team player Marketers need to be able to both defend their position and to proactively move forwards in the same game. In order to be truly successful, it is clear that brands must articulate and implement their Customer Care and Influencer strategies in synthesis and ensure symbiotic benefits across both operations/customer facing strategies/platforms/customer touch points.
Contacts vs Conversations
Customer Care processes and Influencer Marketing processes differ in fundamental and operational ways. While Customer Care process focuses on managing multiple contacts, Influencer process focuses on conversations.
This means that Customer Care process is geared to respond at scale to multiple signals, managing each individual customer equally. Customer Care platforms have developed advanced workflow management processes that help brands optimize the cost and efficiency of their operations: ROI here is based on unit cost of resolution, basically much like a call centre.
Influencer Marketing on the other hand starts with a very different insight: that is the understanding that very few individuals (around 3%) will generate 90% of the conversations. The influencer marketer is therefore focused on developing and growing a select number of high value relationships over time. ROI here is measured, for example, on positive share of voice, additional traffic, mentions generated per £ invested.
To summarise Customer Care aims to respond in the most economical way to high scale social signals from customers whilst Influencer Marketing looks to build conversations around the brand through long-term high value relationships with select social media voices.
Varying Organisational Structures
So how should brands/CMOs set-up their organisations to both respond to and capitalise on the opportunities presented by both strategies as well as manage such diverging/divergent processes?
Here is an illustration of two leading brands that have selected completely different organisational models.
At Orange, France’s leading telecom operator, the Influencer Marketing team sits within the communication department and is closely integrated with the overarching brand communications department/ initiative, strongly aligning influencer initiatives with the brands activity and communications campaigns. Customer Care is managed by the Client Relationship Division who oversee a portfolio of more than 20M customers in the country. Select influencers are “tagged” in the “Customer Care” system as VIPs to make sure they receive the “best treatment”.
The Coca Cola company on the other hand, another Traackr customer, has made a different choice and has been building up their influencer marketing practice within their Customer Care teams, leveraging their existing resources and expertise in managing online relationships. Growing Influencer Marketing with the Customer Care teams is also key to facilitate collaboration and integration of processes across all customer interactions.
Whether integrated across the same team or located within different parts of the organisation, one thing is clear: brands need to recognise the distinct and considerable differences in the nature and objectives of Customer Care and Influencer Marketing and cater on their structures and resources accordingly.
Brands must build specific processes and acquire specific technology solutions that will support success on both fronts. At the same time, building the necessary bridges and collaborative processes will be critical to ensure consistency of voice to the market and – more importantly – to/with individual customers.
To raise the game of any brand today, CMO’s must recognise that Customer Care and Influencer Marketing play pivotal defender and forward roles in the same team. Each requires specific skills and types of players; but success will come from communication and synergistic alignment across all players; to include midfield, forward and defence.
Just ask FC Barcelona 🙂
Image credit: Bryan Kramer