Only when you are confident in your ability to support the collaborative process should you invest in a full-scale social media effort. I recommend following these simple steps:
1. Listen and respond. You should be listening for signals from social media for needs of existing and potential clients. You want to engage proactively: listening at the point of need; as well as reactively: listening for indicators that someone may need help. To provide another personal example, Virgin America effectively and quickly responded to a need I had via social media. Unlike its competitor, Virgin got back to me very quickly, taking care to resolve the issue in the backchannel instead of sending me to an 800 number.
2. Cross-reference social and internal customer data. Is there anything that could have made the Virgin example even better? Certainly! It would have been even better if the company automatically knew my frequent flyer number without me having to message it. To successfully serve someone or give them an unforgettable experience, you need to know what your relationship is with the person who tweeted, your history of communication, as well as purchase history, if it’s a customer. For example, at my company, we help you cross-reference people from the social media stream (either your own or as a result of tracking keywords) to the internal record for a full 360-degree view.
3. Understand context of relationship. Quick caveat: this new level of customer intelligence should be used in context of the relationship. While the customer may want you to get the full scoop on him or her in a customer service scenario, a company should never appear like it is using the personal information of someone who has no relationship with the company.