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What Are Customers Really Doing with Social Media?

This week I ran across a report published by the IBM Institute of Business Value entitled: ‘From Social Media to Social CRM’ – based on a survey of over 1,000 consumers and 300+ company leaders. The punch line of the report is that most companies and their marketing teams have misunderstood the revenue growth opportunity that social media marketing represents.

There are several other “key findings” that should really come as no surprise to anyone: top reason why people go to social media sites is to connect with friends and family, CEOs want to get closer to their customers, consumers say they are first an advocate for a brand offline before they engage that brand on social media, etc.

For me, the most interesting finding in the report is the overall disconnect between what consumers say is important to them on social media sites versus what companies think is important. In short, consumers say they see social media as a direct path to discounts and making purchases from companies, whereas most business leaders think consumers use social media to learn about their products and get general information about their company – a significant gap in perceptions! However, before you all go out and start buying the latest “Social CRM” software package from IBM to close that gap, I’d suggest you stop and think about what you’re really trying to accomplish. As marketers know, what consumers say and what they actually do are not always aligned. You may think that C.R.M. stands for “Customer Relationship Management”. But in the new world of social media, C.R.M. stands for “Can’t Replace Marketing”. Jumping to the conclusion that social media is all about pushing promotions and discounts to your customers could actually be pretty dangerous because different companies have different customers who care about different things!  If you do a quick assessment of your Customer BuyWay – that is, how customers use social media to make decisions and buy stuff from you or your competitors – you may be surprised what you learn…

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