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Retail rules the social media game. But our research has shown that not all sectors are equal in the social media world – and some have a much harder job than retailers to get engagement from their customers on social.

Part of it is down to different audiences. Retailers have the brands that we like to talk about – but we rarely share the intimate details of our finances in the pub (not to mention the fact that banks face a legal and regulatory minefield around giving financial advice in public).

Travel companies come a close second to retailers and have been doing it the longest – via well established forums like Trip Advisor – and they also need to cope with disgruntled travellers taking to Twitter via their smart phone.

Social media’s good for retail

Our recent white paper on social media found no other sector uses it more than retail. And of the interactions we looked at (2,986 of them), over half were complimentary or general comments. Only 25 per cent were negative (13 per cent criticism, 12 per cent complaints).

But even retailers could do better

Even so, only 25 to 45 per cent of retailers are actually engaging with their customers. A big chunk of them are still missing a trick.

In comparison, finance and central government have a lot harder job – in the research sample, they had the least amount of interaction and none of the organisations sampled had ventured onto Facebook. Even if it is difficult to engage on social, it doesn’t give organisations permission to ignore it. However rushing into social media without a strategy beyond “everyone else is doing it” is also unwise.

So what’s the answer?

  1. Set out clearly how and why you want to engage on social media – do you want a conversation or simply listen and learn?  Who in the organization needs to be engaged?
  2. For the compliance heavy banks – the best are engaging customers by talking about something other than banking. What or who do you sponsor? Say it’s a golf tournament; make golf ‘your thing’. Make your social media channels the place to go to get the inside track on everything golfing. But keep it relevant to your brand.
  3. Focus on fixing problems. You could turn your social media channels into an extended helpline. From our sample, most customer interactions were common grumbles about being on hold, ignored emails, or broken links on websites. These are valuable operational cues that can be used to increase contact centre resources, deflect calls or fast track technical fixes. Channels like webchat can also be used effectively alongside social to take conversations out of a public channel and engage in a more one-to-one dialogue.
  4. Be human – social media is about people rather than reeling out scripted answers. Use your front line people well and ensure that you engage the right experts to sort issues out rather than simply apologizing (although even an acknowledgement can help).

 Posted by Dr Nicola Millard, BT Futurologist

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