Written by Anonymous
We spend hours there, days, weeks; scrolling through wedding and pet photos, reading status updates about political opinions from old classmates, replying to friend requests from mothers-in-law, sharing recipes… retweeting, regramming, commenting, tagging, blogging, writing, liking, chatting, crying and laughing. Social media is no longer a buzzword belonging to the young and hip. Instead, social media has become a matter of course for millions of people around the globe.
Therefore, it is no surprise that more and more companies realizes social media’s enormous potential. Social media opens up for companies to connect with customers on a personal, day-to-day basis, do I need to say more? It’s a golden opportunity to connect with customers and build relationships! However, it might not be as easy as some may think, the rules of the game have changed, dramatically.
In this short text I will look into this new digital landscape and how it has affected consumers’ behavior. I am interested in understanding how companies can carry out their customer relationship management (CRM) online effectively in this new environment. To illustrate my findings I will use the case of Halebop, the winner of SKI’s (Swedish quality index) yearly measuring of the company with most satisfied customers in the telecom industry, six years in a row (SKI, 2014).
Before digging any deeper, I will start by clarifying what I mean when referring to social media. In this text I will consider social media as internet-based technologies that enables the creation and exchange of content (think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, online communities, blogs etc.) (Malthouse et al., 2013; Parent et al., 2011).
From bowling to pinball
With social media, consumers today possess possibilities far from what was imaginable ten years back. As consumers now can create their own content and forward it to their friends (and millions of others), it is no longer the marketers who are in control and sets the agenda. The metaphor of traditional marketing as bowling and social media as pinball (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2013) seems more than useful to describe this new environment marketers must now relate to. Bowling describes the linear-process where marketers send out messages to targeted audiences. In the pinball environment, these messages can no longer be controlled; instead they get hurled, swooshed and bounced around, or using the social media terms; liked, shared and tweeted about. Thus, there is no doubt that the rules of the game have changed – so what can we do about it?
The fist answer seems to be “not much”; social media is here to stay. However, instead of trying to change the rules of the game, companies need to start playing the game. Managing to do this right can create mutual benefits in terms of value for both the company and the customers (Malthouse et al. 2013.
As the door opens for marketers to connect with customers (and non-customers) through social media, the traditional customer relationship management (CRM) is being challenged (Baird & Parasnis, 2011). Malthouse et al. (2013:270) defines CRM as “the management of relationships as they move from beginning (initiation) to end (termination), with execution across the various customer-facing contact channels”, with a focus on customer information to enhance customer lifetime value (CLV). In everyday terms this means that companies segment their target audience according to various characteristics, and use marketing activities to reach these specific segments (Malthouse et al., 2013). This can be compared to the previously mentioned bowling-metaphor where the company is seen as an active player and the customers as solely passive receivers. In a social media setting, this approach is no longer applicable; therefore we need to rethink the traditional CRM. Social CRM calls for this new way of approaching the online setting by engaging with customers, acknowledging them as active participators in the building of a mutual beneficial relationship (Harrigan & Miles, 2014). This two-way communication enables companies to listen, talk and engage in a personal, intimate and meaningful dialogue with customers and potential customers (Hanna et al., 2011; Malthouse et al., 2013). Companies can strengthen this relationship as well as the brand community, by facilitating the creation and sharing of content (Christodoulides, 2009). What’s important is that the content is relevant and meaningful to the customers (Rohm et al., 2013). Zentes et al. (2006) takes a similar approach when referring to the paradigm shift, where the traditional marketing approach has been replaced by a customer relationship-focus. Or expressed in this straight forward way;
“The internet is no longer only to find information; it is there to enable companies to more effectively engage in relationship building.”
(Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2012:320)
Which kinds of engagement companies are able to create can vary on a scale of low to high. Low engaged consumers can be defined as either pure observers of information or showing their opinions through liking content or by passing it on. Someone who is producing content by its own, by e.g. writing reviews or making videos, illustrates a consumer with a higher level of engagement (Malthouse et al., 2013).
We know now that companies need to rethink the traditional CRM when in a social media setting and start engaging customers in order to build successful social CRM. But how can this be done? Lets have a look at the case of Halebop.
Halebop – making their social CRM count
Halebop is a Swedish telephone operator, part of the TeliaSonera group, which has been around on the Swedish market since 2001 (Halebop, 2015). The company works actively with their social CRM on the platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube. What follows are some examples of their work with social CRM.
As a part of Halebop’s social CRM, the company has decided to manage its customer service only through online means, skipping the traditional option of support through telephone. The company offers their customers to contact customer service online, using a chat for support on their webpage or through the company’s Facebook page. There seem to be several opportunities arising when using social media for customer service. First of all, the medium is accessible and easy for customers to use and engage in, especially as the company is targeting an active social media user group, namely teenagers and young adults. Moreover, it enables customers to see answers from other customers, which increases the efficiency of the support (Harrigan & Miles, 2014) and adds great value to the customer experience. Thus, Halebop is embracing the social media climate by adopting a social CRM where customers are encouraged to be active participants in a two-way communication, starting from the customers.
Although Halebop is embracing the social media platforms for interaction, this is not without any threats. Negative comments from customers are available for anyone to read who enters Halebop’s Facebook page and can work like the pinball-metaphor previously used. This may of course have negative impact on customers looking to buy Halebop’s products. However, this also opens up for Halebop to exercise some control in the chaotic pinball environment. Having the chance to respond to customer complaints directly, personal, quickly and polite, as Halebop manage to do, is one great example of how Halebop is maneuvering in the social media landscape. This may then work against negative connotations customers might have of Halebop when reading the negative comments. CRM in a pinball environment calls for continuous work to not disappoint customers and hurt existing relationships.
Halebop is also engaging with customers by offering relevant and meaningful content using Facebook and Instagram to post questions, competitions and to give tips related to smartphones and accessories. One example of the result of Halebop’s engagement is when the company posted a short video of how to make a mobile case. Thousands of likes and hundreds of comments and shares showed how people connected to other people both in the community and recommending it to their friends. The same goes for Instagram; Halebop recently posted a photo with the text “You are nice” as part of their “Lovebombing campaign” (link in Swedish). People started to tag their friends in the post as a way of forwarding the message to them. Additionally, Halebop also talks to their customers by referring to them as “boppers”, actively creating a community and a personal relationship between them (Halebop Facebook, 2015).
The above examples have so far been of relative low engagement character; e.g. customers liking, commenting and sharing content. Halebop is however also able to attract deeper engagements from customers. One of the photos below illustrates an example of this; a customer posted a picture taken by himself on Halebop’s Facebook wall with the comment “Hi Halebop, I just wanted to “lovebomb” you a little bit. Have a nice weekend /Christian” (Halebop Facebook, 2015).
This shows how customers are taken initiatives themselves to engage with the company and thus illustrates a higher level of engagement. Halebop obviously responded to Christians post by “lovebombing” him back and whishing him a nice weekend (Halebop Facebook, 2015).
Halebop seems to be throwing themselves out in the world of actively commenting, tweeting and sharing-customers. By continuously engaging with customers through a two-way communication, Halebop is making its social CRM count.
So what have we learned from this?
Social media have made consumers into active participants rather than passive receivers of information. Thus, marketers are no longer in control over the content they send out (or receive). However, this does not mean they can’t play the game; they just need to follow the new rules. To carry out CRM effectively online companies need to transform their traditional CRM to a social CRM by opening up for customer engagement. Doing so creates value in two directions, towards the company as well as its customers.
This short post is just a glimpse into the world of social media and social CRM and evokes new questions to be answered. I leave these ones for you; how can companies create content that is relevant and meaningful for their specific audience? Is social media for all companies? And how can companies best prepare for the chaotic pinball environment?
Baird, C, & Parasnis, G 2011, 'From social media to social customer relationship management', Strategy & Leadership, 39, 5, p. 30, Publisher Provided Full Text Searching File, EBSCOhost, accessed on 12th February 2015. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/10878571111161507
Christodoulides, G 2009, 'Branding in the post-internet era', Marketing Theory, 9, 1, pp. 141-144, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, accessed on 12th February 2015.
Hanna, R, Rohm, A, & Crittenden, V 2011, 'We’re all connected: The power of the social media ecosystem', Business Horizons, 54, SPECIAL ISSUE: SOCIAL MEDIA, pp. 265-273, ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost, accessed on 11th February 2015. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0007681311000243
Harrigan, P, & Miles, M 2014, 'From e-CRM to s-CRM. Critical factors underpinning the social CRM activities of SMEs', Small Enterprise Research, 21, 1, pp. 99-116, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, accessed on 11th February 2015.
Hennig-Thurau, T, Hofacker, C, & Bloching, B 2013, 'Marketing the Pinball Way: Understanding How Social Media Change the Generation of Value for Consumers and Companies', Journal Of Interactive Marketing (Mergent, Inc.), 27, 4, pp. 237-241, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, accessed on 11th February 2015. http://www.socialmediathinklab.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2-Hennig-Thurau_Hofacker_Bloching_2013_JIM_Marketing-the-Pinball-Way.pdf
Malthouse, E, Haenlein, M, Skiera, B, Wege, E, & Zhang, M 2013, 'Managing Customer Relationships in the Social Media Era: Introducing the Social CRM House', Journal Of Interactive Marketing, 27, Social Media and Marketing, pp. 270-280, ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost, accessed on 11th February 2015. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1094996813000431
Papasolomou, I, & Melanthiou, Y 2012, 'Social Media: Marketing Public Relations' New Best Friend', Journal Of Promotion Management, 18, 3, p. 319-328, Scopus®, EBSCOhost, accessed on 12th February 2015.
Parent, M, Plangger, K, & Bal, A 2011, 'The new WTP: Willingness to participate', Business Horizons, 54, SPECIAL ISSUE: SOCIAL MEDIA, pp. 219-229, ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost, accessed on 14th February 2015. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0007681311000048
Rohm, A, Kaltcheva, V, & Milne, G 2013, 'A mixed-method approach to examining brand-consumer interactions driven by social media', Journal Of Research In Interactive Marketing, 7, 4, p. 295-311, Scopus®, EBSCOhost, accessed on 12th February 2015. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/JRIM-01-2013-0009
Zentes, J., Morschett, D., & Schramm-Klein, H. (2006). Strategic Retail Management. 1st edition. Wiesbaden: Gabler
Halebop. (2014). About Halebop. Available: https://www.halebop.se/om-halebop. Last accessed 13th Feb 2015.
Halebop. (2015). Halebop Facebook page. [Facebook] n.d. Available from: www.facebook.com/halebop. Last accessed 12th Feb 2015.
Halebop. (2015). Halebop mobile case video. [Facebook] n.d. Available from: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152710705736297 Last accessed 12th Feb 2015.
SKI. (2014). Svenskt kvalitetsindex Telekom 2014. Available from: http://www.kvalitetsindex.se/images/stories/Rapporter/ICT/ski_press_ict_14.pdf. Last accessed 12th Feb 2015.
Image 1. Halebop Sverige. You are nice (2015). [Instagram] n.d. Last viewed on 13th Feb 2015.
Image 2. Halebop. Lovebombing (2015). [Facebook] 2015-02-06. Last viewed on 13th Feb 2015.
Customer lifetime value:
http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/customer-lifetime-value.html Last accessed 14th Feb 2015.
Halebop Lovebombing campaign: http://www.resume.se/nyheter/reklam/2014/10/15/halebop-snall-rebell-som-vinner-i-langden/ Last accessed 16th Feb 2015.