Social media: a driving force in digital transformations
With almost 60% of the world’s population using social media, businesses need to embrace these platforms as an integral part of their digital strategy.
Social media plays a significant role in modern-day life, and some would make the bold claim that it has changed the world. Whether or not it has in fact changed the world is open for debate, but what is unarguable is that it has changed the way people consume news and information, communicate, and interact with one another and the companies that they buy from.
The use of social media between the customer and the organisation
If we define ‘digital’ as the convergence of people and technology (though clearly not in the same way as depicted in Blade Runner, The Terminator, or RoboCop) then social media is a prime example of this fusion.
As such, it has become an important tool in managing the relationship between the end customer and the organisation.
There is a perception among consumers that social media is a more reliable source than other information channels and, for certain sections of the demographic, they will turn to social media first to get information about products and services.
Organisations, therefore, put a lot of time and effort into the quality of the information that they put onto social media channels knowing that better quality information will increase the perception of trust amongst consumers.
Given the increasing and ever-accelerating rate of customer demands regarding the products and services they receive, social media is a crucial tool that allows organisations to generate vast amounts of data to gain insights into customer preferences, behaviours, and trends.
Automated customer analytics provide near real-time feedback on customer activities, and this allows marketing departments to better understand the consumer and refine their strategies based on real-world, real-time information.
This data, along with supporting analytics, allows content and promotional campaigns to be tailored to meet the individual customers’ needs and desires, providing a more compelling and personal level of service.
The way in which organisations engage with their customers and prospective customers has changed radically with the use of social media and allows businesses to provide highly responsive customer service.
The impacts on the service that organisations provide to their customers on an almost daily basis is evident for all to see on platforms such as X (previously Twitter), where accounts with a large number of followers use the platform to complain about perceived failings in the service provided by companies. The social media/customer service team on the other end of the complaint respond immediately with something along the lines of “DM me and we will look into this issue for you…”
This level of customer service is more than most mere mortals can hope to receive, but it is an example of the impact that social media has, and how reactive organisations are having to become on these platforms to reduce the risk of bad publicity.
This also serves to demonstrate how seriously organisations are taking social media in terms of how they aim to improve their customer service (or at least improve the perception of their customer service). Traditional communications channels are unsuited to this type of dynamic and highly interactive engagement, and these new channels are now an essential means for organisations to listen, respond, and adapt to customer feedback.
With 4.76 billion people (or around 59% of the world’s population) using social media, it is unsurprising that brands, keen to reach as wide an audience as possible, are sharing content across multiple channels. The intention being to increase brand awareness and use promotional campaigns to drive higher conversion rates and turn prospective customers into actual revenue generating customers.
The highly desirable outcome of a viral post is not just cost effective (the return on investment can be high compared to traditional advertising methods) but can also increase trust because it’s being shared by real people and not pushed via paid-for advertising.
Any increase in participation between an organisation and the end customer will help to stimulate interest and maintain relationships between the customer and the organisation. This increase in customer stickiness can improve the Lifetime Value (LTV) of the customer to the organisation and allow companies to assess how much they should invest in acquiring and retaining customers.
Social media influencers
It should come as no surprise that those aged between 18 and 49 are the most active users of social media platforms. This is a huge age range and covers the years where most people will have their highest disposable income, making these channels even more appealing to marketing departments. The younger end of this age range has given rise to the phenomenon of social media influencers who have the power to shape consumer behaviour.
The influencer marketing industry has grown significantly in recent years and has become an essential part of many marketing strategies. Brands hope that collaborating with these individuals will enhance their credibility, standing, reach, and impact among a younger customer demographic.
The use of social media between the organisation and potential employees
Social media has transformed the hiring process, with platforms such as LinkedIn allowing companies to find and connect with potential candidates directly rather than advertising or going via third parties.
Similarly, these platforms allow candidates to contact their network to explore if a prospective employer’s culture aligns with their values.
This is a win for both sides of the hiring equation, resulting in candidates being more informed about potential employers and employers being more effective in targeting potential candidates, both of which should result in a better match between employee and employer.
The use of social media within the organisation
Though social media platforms are generally public-facing, organisations are increasingly adopting internal social media channels, also known as enterprise social networks (Microsoft’s Yammer and Workplace by Facebook, for example) specifically to improve communication and collaboration across their business areas.
The speed of communication facilitated by these enterprise social media channels enables internal teams (that may be globally distributed) to respond to time-critical situations quickly.
Social media platforms are a driving force in digital transformations and their use, in both B2C and increasingly B2B contexts, is affecting various aspects of business operations, customer experience, and market conditions.
The use of social media channels in digital transformations allows organisations to be more responsive and adaptable to the needs of the customer. To stay relevant and competitive, businesses need to embrace these platforms and regard them as an integral part of their digital strategy.
This article contains extracts taken from my upcoming book, The Galapagos Framework — Evolving from Digital Transformation to Digital Acceleration, due for release in 2024.
About the author
Brian Harkin is the CTO of Kynec and a visiting lecturer at Bayes Business School (City, University of London).
He is passionate about the intersection of people, technology, and innovation and has developed the Galapagos Framework to help leaders and organisations transform the way they direct digital change.
All opinions are his own and he welcomes debate and comment!