Engage with customers. And then ?

Summary : It’s obvious that the use of social media within companies and between companies and customers are not compartmentalized but complementary disciplines. If the “internal” company is more and more trying to get in touch with customers, the world of marketing struggles to make his way toward internal departments. As communication is becoming service, initiatives that target customers can’t be separated from those that aim at reversing communication flows inside the organization, redefining roles  and realigning the whole organization with the needs of employees who are directrly in touch with customers. To demonstrate its value, social and community makerting will have to replace “push” with “pull” not only in its interactions withn customoers but also in the way the whole organization works.

Even if the external/marketing/communication part has never been my prefered one, it has become obvious that it’s impossible to dissociate the evolution of work from what’s happening outside the corporate walls. First, because no company creates value on its own et a high level of internal performance is useless when a business is not as efficient with its external partners and clients that it is internally (theory of the limiting factor or bottlneck…as you prefer), second because the internal shift from push to pull logically leads to consider customers.

The time when 2.0 was either about marketing or collaboration but not both at the same time is over. Yet, the concept of enterprise 2.0 evolved overtime and everybdoy finds logical to include all external stakeholders into it, what is confirmed by the rise of social crm. But even if enterprise 2.0 is heading down toward customers, marketing struggles to head up toward internal activities.

I recently found this interesting deck about the failure of social media initiatives. It tells us that

– there’s a lack of strategy (81%) and most marketers don’t undestand the value of interactions…and how all these things work.

– consequently, businesses invest more on technology than on people and relationships.

I’d like to go a little bit further and sum it up in one sentence : when marketing and communication people use social media to communicate better and differently, there are two possibilities:

– either they (or their company) don’t get it and that doesn’t work.

– Or they understand how to make a good use of social media and…they deceive their customers.

My interest in everything that has wings, engines and flies made me find that a conference about social media for airlines will soon be organized. On the event website I can read

Social media for the aviation industry’ will give valuable insights into the world of social media and explore how airlines can maximise the impact of different platforms to reach their customers and strengthen their brands.

I agree this is the kind of logical things that can be read about any event of this kind and what I’m going to say applies to nearly all similar initiatives. Let’s sum up:

– you engage with customers in a new way on social media

– you build a close and individualized relationship with customers

– so they ask you questions, ask you to solve their problems

– and since the organization is not design to make communication people lead support teams, to let people in charge of social media take any initiative or stand on behalf of the company, customers requests are neglected or lost in the traditional channels. Marketing and communication people are directly in touch with customers but can’t sole their problems and, in many cases, loose the lead on the requests that were made to them.

The question for any organization is not to know how to use social media with their customers. It’s rather to know “how to build an organization that will empower those who are in touch with customers so that they can solve their problems”.

If nothing is done to change the direction of internal flows, if nothing is done to empower employees (what also makes it easier for their employer to trust them), there are few chances to achieve anything significant. Communication on social media is, before all, a matter of service, support, what implies to rethink the organization consequently, to make it “pull-compatible”.

We should remember that community management has to support business processes, to be a layer, a channel, an internal service and not a goal. I even illustrated this with a fictitious airline case (surprising 😉 ).

Saying that, I really appreciate a recent press release by Alcatel-Lucent , saying :

Alcatel-Lucent Genesys maps out successful social media strategy for enterprises that includes strong linkage between customer service and marketing


I’m really looking forward to seing a conference on social media and marketing where the main issue won’t be “how to engage with customers” but :

“How to align the whole organization to make the value proposal of social media engagement will be so obvious for customers that they will naturally engage with businesses”‘.

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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