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Why social media is key to collecting customer feedback

Social media offers companies a way to hear opinions about their products, as well to interact with customers to improve CX. Businesses must know how to gather and use feedback.

Surveys and focus groups are popular ways to collect feedback, but social media provides businesses with a gold mine of instant customer feedback.

Social data provides businesses with authentic reactions to their products and services. Businesses should listen to what their customers are saying without prompting them and act on this information to improve overall customer experience.

Social media has transformed into a platform where businesses and customers can interact with each other and solve customer service issues, as well as gather feedback on what they want in a product, said Liz Miller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Liz MillerLiz Miller

"[Businesses] started to look at social as more than just the messaging billboard -- they started looking at social as a central point for the community," Miller said.

Initiate conversations that generate feedback

Nuun Hydration, a Seattle-based health and wellness company, uses Instagram to listen to and interact with customers. Nuun also uses Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Courtney SwingerCourtney Swinger

"We have found that more people are active on our Instagram in comparison to our Twitter," said Courtney Swinger, social media manager at Nuun Hydration. "For us, it's not about the demographics, it's more listening and honing in on where our audience is the most active and making sure we focus our efforts to meet them where they are."

When observing customer feedback on social media platforms, Swinger aims to understand the full consumer experience with the product. Using Instagram posts, she asks the audience questions such as: How are you using Nuun? What's your favorite product? What do you hope to see more from us?

"[We] truly listen to those stories -- good or bad," Swinger said. "We do all that we can to foster an environment, especially on social, where people feel comfortable sharing those experiences with us."

Social data provides businesses with authentic reactions to their products and services.

One key strategy to encourage customer feedback over social media is to create an environment that makes customers feel comfortable with sharing their experiences. Companies can create this environment by encouraging engagement, interacting with customers via social and letting them know that there is a human on the other side of the social media account who is reading and acknowledging the posts that customers share.

While customer comments may be unsolicited, businesses can also use calls to action in their posts to solicit feedback. Question boxes in Instagram stories can increase customer engagement, but direct messages can further conversations with customers, Swinger said.

If a customer sends a direct message to the company saying they used the product and enjoyed it, Swinger asks the customer more questions to learn more about, for example, their favorite flavor and how the product helped their training.

Act on customer feedback

It's not enough for businesses to simply collect customer feedback -- they also need to act on it to show customers that they listen and value their input.

Nuun offered a flavor called Kona Kola that it no longer sells; however, after receiving many direct messages and comments on Instagram -- as well as emails from a dedicated group of customers -- the company brought the flavor back as a limited edition.

"When we brought it back it was the best way to [say], 'We produced this seasonal flavor because you loved it so much. We listen to you,'" Swinger said.

Other companies, such as the fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, describe social media as a two-way conversation and turn customer input into reality when designing products, Miller said. Minkoff's social team began having the product team and designers respond to customer comments to determine how to improve the product.

"[Customers] started to feel this incredible ownership over the success of a color they picked out," Miller said. "The things that used to be the problems and points of friction -- what [the customer] didn't like, what they wanted it to be -- turned into starting points for future conversations where they got to be part of solving the problem."

Minkoff's social team used the customer feedback, worked with the customers and created products that increased customer satisfaction for their loyal customers, Miller said.

Dealing with negative feedback

Not all feedback is positive, so it is important for businesses to acknowledge the negative comments and address the issues.

Brands can address concerns by continuing the conversation in direct messages -- especially when dealing with shipping issues that require sharing sensitive information, such as addresses and phone numbers, Swinger said.

The difficult issue that comes with negative feedback is determining which feedback requires a response and which feedback to act on. To do that, the business must identify "their crowd" versus "the crowd," Miller said. For a business, "their crowd" is their loyal customer base who will always buy from the business. On the other hand, "the crowd" are the people who will never buy from the business, but always have an opinion about it.

"Make sure before you go into any listening or feedback program to define your crowd [and] define the crowd," Miller said. "Then define the processes, workflows and people who were involved in listening to and addressing conversations out of those areas."

When the social media team receives a complaint, it should alert the relevant department to avoid miscommunication and improve the customer experience. If the social media team sends a complaint pertaining to the sales process straight to the customer service team, for example, the sales team cannot improve future interactions based on the feedback.

Tools for monitoring social media

Businesses can use social media management tools to schedule and execute posts and measure engagement on their social media posts. Social media management platforms often incorporate social listening tools to hear and analyze community feedback about brands. 

As social media management vendors evolved, they began to focus more on the communities that businesses were building and the conversations they were having with their audiences. This led to the need for social media management vendors to integrate social listening tools into their platforms, Miller said.

Social media listening tools monitor social media channels for mentions of the brand, its competitors and keywords related to the business and then analyze the information to determine what to do next.

For example, the tool may determine that the company should respond to a satisfied customer. It could also provide suggestions, such as launching a marketing campaign to raise awareness of a product that isn't as popular.

Social media listening tools can collect all this customer data and integrate with a CRM platform. Organizations can also connect some social media monitoring and social listening platforms to their marketing automation platform via an API, Miller said. However, some marketing automation vendors, such as HubSpot and Constant Contact, already have built-in social media monitoring tools.

Social listening tools often integrate with social analytics and try to determine how customer voices are affecting a business.

"Social listening tools [are] more about aggregating [customer] conversations and [assigning] business value to those social moments," Miller said.

Hootsuite, Sprinklr and Sprout Social -- which Nuun uses for its scheduling and analytics tool -- are examples of tools that integrate social listening. Businesses can use these tools to monitor brand mentions and analyze the sentiment of the mentions.

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