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Social Media Is Growing Up. What Does That Mean for Your Marketing?

Social Media Is Growing Up. What Does That Mean for Your Marketing?

Social media has become customer service: It allows companies to respond in real-time and make a real, meaningful impact on customers’ lives. In this Marketing Cloudcast, Luke Ball discusses what that means for companies, which ones are doing it well (and how), and what the trends are.

Social media platforms have changed how businesses approach and engage with customers, and one of its unintended benefits has been to upend the way that businesses shape their customer journeys. Social media has become customer service: It allows companies to respond in real-time and make a real, meaningful impact on customers’ lives. In this Marketing Cloudcast, Luke Ball discusses what that means for companies, which ones are doing it well (and how), and what the trends are.

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Welcome to The Marketing Cloudcast. It’s the podcast where marketing leaders shoot straight about key trends, technologies, and topics in marketing today. And now, straight from the Salesforce marketing cloud, it’s your co-hosts, Heike Young and Joel Book.

Joel Book (JB): Well hello again, everybody. Joel Book here at Salesforce. It’s that time again: Welcome to another terrific episode of The Marketing Cloudcast. A lot of you have been writing and emailing Heike Young and I about your desire to learn more about social listening. And we have responded. And we’ve got a great guest to really take you behind the scenes of what’s happening in modern day social listening and social media in general. And to introduce you to our very special guest today, it’s my pleasure to welcome in my friend and colleague, Heike Young.

Heike Young (HY): Well, thanks so much, Joel. And yes, you’re right: We do have a social media expert on deck today. Occasionally, we like to bring in people from Salesforce as well. I know you’ve heard a lot of our customers, our partners at Salesforce, also, a lot of external marketing leaders. People who don’t work at Salesforce that have written some incredible books, or some of our favorite speakers who have inspired me and Joel at different conferences. We have just a pretty broad palette of marketing experts we like to feature on this show.

And from time to time we like to bring in people here at Salesforce who have a particular area of expertise that we think would be great to share with you. And so in this topic of social, there’s really nobody better at Salesforce to talk to you about it than Luke Ball. He is senior director for product management at Salesforce and leads our social listening products. He’s previously the director of User Experience at GroupSwim and just an all-around very smart guy in this field of social media. So, Luke, thank you so much for sharing some of your time with us today.

Luke Ball (LB): Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

HY: So, Luke, lay it all out for us. You’ve been working at Salesforce for how long now?

LB: I’ve been at Salesforce about seven years now. Just hard to believe.

HY: And have you been working on the social products that entire time?

LB: In a sense, although not the social products as we’re talking about today. I worked on our Chatter products for many years, so sort of internal social collaboration, before moving to our social studio product, which is focused on social media management and insights.

Tech, Brands, and Social Media

HY: Okay. Got it. So a lot of practice, a lot of experience in this area of social listening and social publishing for businesses. What would you say is kind of the state of social media today? We have all of these new types of technologies available. I think companies are becoming more comfortable with using social for their brands. What’s kind of the lay of the land?

LB: It’s a great question. Social — it’s always a rapidly changing marketplace and landscape. I think we’ve been through the conventional hype cycle and maybe even arguably the trough of disillusionment, but I’m seeing a lot of maturation happening right now. I feel like many businesses are finally beginning to realize the full potential of social and incorporate it into their business processes, into their strategies in a more holistic way. So it’s a very exciting time to be working with our customers in that regard, because, initially, it was all about, “Oh, this new hot thing.” And everyone is so excited about it and the potential for change is so huge. And after that initial excitement, I think a lot of people were left wondering, “How does this fit into my business, how does this fit alongside other channels, how does this fit into my processes?” And we’re really starting to — we’re in the beginning stages of fully realizing that, and I see businesses really adapting it into much more fundamental holistic way.

JB: You say social media has reached that maturation point. My take on it, Luke — I look at social media in the context of the overall multi-channel mix or omnichannel mix that brands use. And to me, social media seems to be the epicenter of innovation. Social media has become — and this is just my opinion. It’s like this amazing Swiss Army knife for customer engagement. Not only has it become the go-to channel for content publishing, for social listening — social media has become the epicenter of modern-era direct response advertising for demand gen. And now you’ve got this whole new area of products like Facebook Messenger that I think are really going to revolutionize e-commerce and even customer support.

LB: Absolutely. And I don’t mean to say by maturation point that it’s necessarily stabilized. I was thinking more in regards to how it fits into business. I think there was a lot of struggle initially, but you’re absolutely right. We see new networks coming up every day and more specialization of networks in terms of who they’re reaching and how. We’re seeing new channels emerge within social sub-channels.

Messenger is a great example and that sort of one-to-one communication channel. Look at Snapchat: I think that’s one that’s still emerging, and people are still trying to figure out how brands fit into that conversation in a meaningful, scalable way. Messenger, in particular, I think, is probably the one to watch this year. [There’s a lot of] traction in Asia with WeChat and the marketplace in ecosystem or platform that WeChat has developed into — looking into that as an example for the potential this can have in the U.S. And we’re looking at things like Direct Commerce, right through the channel. We’re looking at customer service. We’re looking at ways to automate and scale this with the addition of bots and active agents in the conversation, too, where you don’t require that high-touch human intervention that you do in traditional social channels. Where it’s absolutely a best practice to have authentic real individual answers to every question and you don’t want to automate.

In the world of Messenger and similar platforms, automation is a key cornerstone to that strategy and I think that’s something that we all collectively kind of have to figure out. If a customer is having a conversation with a bot and then transfers to a human, what is the sort of social protocol around that handoff? Do we make it invisible? Do we make it highly opaque so that the user understands what’s happening? I think there’s a lot of evolving social protocols around that and conventions that haven’t been established yet.

Social Media as Customer Service

JB: It seems to me that the evolution of social has happened at such a rapid pace, Luke, that many brands are really struggling to keep up and really think strategically about how to really use social in different phases of the customer experience lifecycle. Whether it’s for demand gen, whether it’s for content publishing, social listening, driving e-commerce, and, as you just spoke, now using tools like Messenger for advanced customer service and customer support. What’s your advice for brands in terms of really — maybe taking a step back and really beginning to understand maybe more strategically where and when social as part of their whole omnichannel strategy really makes sense, and why they may need to invest more resources in it?

LB: That’s a really challenging question. I couldn’t agree more. I mean, just to sort of reiterate your key point. Social media: It’s real time. It’s extremely high volume. And people are almost literally falling all over themselves to tell you what they think about your brand, your competitors, your industry, your products. And that insight is actionable. It’s scalable. And it’s something that doesn’t just affect marketing. So I think when I see companies who don’t think big enough about the opportunity — they think of this as a marketing channel, they think of it as an outreach channel, they’ve pigeonholed it into a specific organization in their business — they are missing the bigger story, I think. So I would encourage companies to take a step back from how they look at it as a marketing channel. And think of it as when you look at the value of the content and the insight that’s coming through here, both on an individual one-to-one level and at an aggregate level, how can that inform your business?

Social customer service is probably the most mature sort of extension of this. So we’ve had some brands doing this for five or more years now, where they treat social as another channel right alongside email, and chat, and phone, and web inquiries. And one of the things that’s great about social, for customer service specifically, is you can do it at lower cost per case, higher turnout. And when you satisfy that customer, when you make them happy, that has an amplification effect that you don’t get in a private one-to-one channel like the phone, right? When you make somebody happy on social, not only are you changing their experience with that brand — and I think we’ve all had that experience where you’ve had that really magical customer service moment and it changes your relationship with that brand for years to come, right? You are now brand loyal when they fix that problem for you.

JB: Do you think brands like Citi — I’m just thinking about AskCiti, which is their channel on Twitter, where they use Salesforce’s social listening tools to monitor conversations that are taking place there where people are posting questions to be responded to by Citibank. Do you think that brands like Citi and others — and Cisco does a great job with this as well — are they seeing tangible ROI now tied back to customer service? In other words, have they been able to take their customer care, customer support to a level where they are seeing big increases in customer satisfaction because of this ability to do more proactive sense and respond customer service?

JB: Oh, absolutely. I don’t know the statistics for Citibank off the top of my head, but a couple other examples are Activision and HP, who both use this for social customer service. So Activision has seen a 378 per cent ROI on social customer service. As I mentioned before, they can do it with lower staffing costs. They find handling social cases is one-third the staffing cost of other channels, which is absolutely mind blowing. They’re servicing 100,000 fans per day across 15 Twitter accounts, across 6 million fans. So that’s an amazing example of ROI of scale.

And social customer service really is the most concrete ROI because you’re talking about a cost center. You’re talking about things where you want deflection, where you want fast turnaround. Social is really a proven channel there. HP is another one that has actually seen tangible changes to their bottom line. They cut their response times by 60 per cent. They’ve seen agent engagement with customers increase 187 per cent with social customer service. And they actually experienced a two per cent increase in their net promoter score brand-wide that they attribute back to their social customer service implementation. Now that’s a bottom line stat for you.

HY: That’s incredible. Luke, you talked a moment ago about social service as a public act, which I think is a huge benefit of social customer service, right? Because when you provide those “wow” moments they really can get amplified and shared broadly across social networks. People can see that if you’re an airline that you answered that tweet in the person’s moment of need. And I’ve even seen those turn into PR articles. Someone will write an article up on Mashable. It’s like, “Oh, you know, Southwest stepped in and saved the day when this lady’s kid got sick back home and they turned the plane for her.” And it all started on social or whatever that might be. What are your thoughts? And I think that that’s a huge benefit of social services, that broad amplification. What are your thoughts on some of these emerging private channels like Facebook Messenger, like Snapchat, where interactions are happening privately between the brand and the person? They’re kind of just that real, true one-to-one type of channel. Do you see this as a separate subset of social? And any ideas what we might call that? Because I see them as distinctly different things.

LB: Absolutely. And I think, to a larger extent, that’s true across the board. We say social and we paint with a pretty broad brush, right? And that’s inclusive of things like Google+, arguably YouTube, Pinterest, which is obviously a very different beast from Snapchat, from Instagram, right? Every one of these networks — Twitter, obviously, and Facebook being mainstays — every one of these networks has its own qualities, its own social protocols, its own strengths and weaknesses, and core audiences. So using social customer service is another example again.

Often times, people will leverage Twitter for social customer service because they know that when their request goes out there, there’s a sort of a shaming aspect to it. And so if you don’t delight the customer, you’re out there and you are sort of publicly letting that customer down. Whereas in Facebook, there’s Friendgating, right, so the brands don’t participate in the same way. So on Twitter I could hear that somebody’s talking bad about my brand, and it’s okay and almost expected that I would insert myself in the conversation even if I wasn’t directly mentioned. On Facebook that’s not okay, that would be invasive and actually hard to do from their privacy permissions. So people go to different networks for different things.

I think if somebody is living in a messenger ecosystem, that’s just their preferred way of reaching out. Just the same way we talk about email or web inquires. Everyone has their own sort of way of doing it. Ultimately, though, whether it’s public or private, it’s that person’s experience with the brand and whether they amplify that directly from the place where it happened or just leave with that feeling of delight, that has resonance regardless. And that’s going to show up in other places in their life and in other interactions with other potential consumers.

The Social Media Center of Excellence

HY: Luke, one of the key social media trends that I’ve heard you talk about is what you call the democratization of social entities, organizations. Can you tell us a little bit about what you mean by that?

LB: Sure. This is a topic that gives me a lot of personal passion of giving more people more tools and more empowerment to do their job. So sort of a history lesson: When social was first coming out and mainstreaming with brands, we saw it being covered by a lot of agencies, right? People essentially farmed it out to other companies because they didn’t know how to get started, they didn’t know what to do. Then we saw the onboarding of social practice inside the brands and that was largely in their customer service teams, that was in their consumer insights teams, PR, etc., and then eventually a standalone social team whose existence was to be social. And that was a small team of practitioners who handled all the app-on content and marketing, all the inbound community management, the analyst who gleaned the insights from the social conversation. That was kind of chapter two or chapter three, depending on how you look at it.

Now we’re in chapter four, and this is where we see the social practice scaling out in the enterprise. So that team of practitioners from a couple of years ago is now becoming a center of excellence. Their job is now more about enabling, empowering, governing, and selecting the strategy and tools for the rest of their business to be successful at social. We call this the hub-and-spoke model. Where you have that center of excellence at the middle and then at the spokes, you have different sub-brands in the portfolio or you have different functional roles, or you have different geographies and regions that manage themselves independently. Or some combination of different groups of the organization who look back to that center of excellence to how to do it, but ultimately are masters of their own destiny. And that has huge implications for the tools that you use, where it used to be that team of social practitioners could use five, six, seven specialized niche tools for different jobs. [Someone] in marketing doesn’t necessarily have time to master those or know when to use which.

So you need a different set of priorities for the tools that you use. They have to be very user-friendly and easy to learn. Easy to re-learn if I’m going in once a month; I need to be able to pick it back up quickly. They need to be mobile first, have access on the go. They need to be consolidated so that I can get everything at one-stop solution, and they need to be connected. So ultimately, that business data needs to be able to flow not just from their social tool, but flow into the other places where they live.

So in the Salesforce example, that’s data flowing, for example, from Social Studio into Service Cloud. The agent is using their native tools, speaking their native language in the agent console without having to go to somewhere else. Pushing social leads into Sales Cloud, so that you can look at prospects coming in and the sales reps can see this inbound channel without having to master social tool. So it’s both a combination of making the tool more accessible, but also making the data more accessible — if that makes sense.

The Depth and Breadth of Social Media Data

JB: I think that’s one of the most exciting things I see happening right now Luke, is this cross-cloud solution approach emerging. And just going back at the example that you just cited, where that initial engagement or interaction or hand raise from a customer might start, generated through social media. Maybe they’re responding to an ad that was placed. Maybe they have just read a positive review about a product and they want to know more. And by being able to sense and respond, by a brand being able to do that, share that lead with the lead quality team. Once it’s sales qualified, push it out to the dealer or push it out to the sales agent for follow up, log that in Sales Cloud, and then really begin to use Marketing Cloud for lead nurturing.

I think that whole integrated, multi-cloud solution really opens up tremendous opportunities for brands that are now able to really leverage that data, leverage that insight, and then use technology to really automate all of this interaction in near real time with the customer and move that individual through every stage of the whole customer experience lifecycle. This is something we’ve dreamed about for a long time, but it’s alive and well and available today. I think it’s just awfully exciting.

The other question I wanted to ask you, though: You’ve talked a lot about data. What’s your take about how well or not-so-well brands are really leveraging this really, really rich data that is coming out of all of these social interactions that customers are having with the brand? Do you think they’re really capitalizing on that and leveraging that data as effectively as they could be? And if not, what should they be doing?

LB: I don’t think most brands are fully realizing the value of this data that’s coming in. I think there’s a short list of leaders who are. It’s sort of back to the point where you’re speaking of earlier, is taking a step back and looking at how social can impact every stage of the journey. We have customers listing for life events, right? So for retail brands, for consumer brands, life events are these huge moments in time where you can shift somebody’s loyalties and shift their awareness of your brand, and that can have resonance for decades to come. So you can listen for life events and then put that customer on a journey that starts with marketing but then turns into a conversion, turns into customer service. We have customers who are doing customer service and then when somebody tweets them or service issue, we actually go to all their outbound marketing activities and pause those journeys. Because there’s nothing more alienating than getting promotional materials when you’re angry or frustrated with the brand. So crossing those lines is really, really powerful, but most brands are not equipped to do that. In that regard, socials are very much a vanguard of this next generation of customer experience management, right? You break down those walls, those conventional boundaries of what’s sales, what’s marketing, what’s service, and, really, because people go to it for all those different reasons and it fits into so many parts of their lives, they don’t care about any of those constructs. They just have a relationship with the brand.

I wish there was an easy answer of how to fully realize that, but it really is looking across those conventional boundaries, looking across those functional roles and saying, instead of, “What can my company do in this scenario?” It’s flipping the lens I think really, and saying, “What does my consumer, what does my customer want from me, and how do I fit into their life?” And then structuring around that. That flip is absolutely non-trivial. That’s disruptive. That’s hard and that’s work. But thinking from a customer’s perspective in, instead of from a company perspective out, I think is fundamentally what it’s about.

The Future of Social Media

HY: Yeah. I really like what you said, Luke, ask not what our company can do for you but what my customer wants from me. It’s pivotal. Luke, it’s almost the end of the year here and it’s almost the end of 2016. I know many of us are happy to embark on a new year and a lot of fresh goals for our marketing and personal lives, whatever that might be — getting in shape, organizing the closet. For social media, what is maybe the biggest trend that you’re looking at for 2017?

LB: That’s a good question. I think we spoke about Facebook Messenger. I think this is a really big play for Facebook, and I think… I’m really curious to watch how it plays out and what influence it has over other networks and how it fits into people’s lives. I think it’s unclear if it’ll be the same kind of success that WeChat saw in China, if it’ll be something different entirely, so I think that’s definitely one to watch. I think we’re going to see more of these one-to-one networks like the Snapchats. That we’re going to see more of that closed network trend happening. We’re going to see more niche networks come out. And I don’t think there’s sort of a — thinking way back in time to the browser wars where there was going to be an eventual winner. That was the perception. I don’t think social media has that same king-of-the-hill moment. I think there’s room for a lot of different players to fit in a lot of different places. So I don’t see that trend changing at all. And then, I think the relationship of commerce to social is going to come to fruition in this year and just in the way that we’ve seen customer service in the last couple years.

HY: Lots to be excited about. Luke, where can people go to learn more about the products you work on, social tools for marketers from Salesforce?

LB: Probably the easiest thing is just Google Salesforce Social Studio or talk to your rep, and you can learn all about it. We’ve got a great product on web, on mobile, Android NLIS, and I’d love for people to get their hands on it and play with it for themselves because it’s really something.

HY: Totally agree. Luke, before we move into our final five segment with you today, I’d like to take a moment to share a quick message from our sponsors. Today, our culture is forged by constant connections: Mobile access to everything imaginable, like we talked about today. Many of those things, social media channels, right when we need them. And consumers today are supremely empowered with more information and choices than ever before. So what is that connected customer really look like, I mean who are they, and what do they expect?

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The Final Five

HY: So Luke, with that we are going to move into our final five. These are the last five questions we ask every guest on the show just to get to know them a little bit better. So we’re going to kick it off with this. Who would you say is your biggest influence professionally?

LB: That’s a really, really tough one. I feel like it’s a cop-out to say Steve Jobs, but there’s nobody who stands bigger in my imagination right now as I think about my professional influence.

JB: What do you find really most memorable about Steve Jobs? Because a couple of our other guests here at The Cloudcast have also mentioned Steve Jobs. What is it? Probably, maybe, the one thing about him and his management style or just innovation?

HY: His love of product [laughter].

LB: I don’t know if it was his management style necessarily. I’m a little bit more collaborative than he was more reputed to be. I think he was a product guy to his core and that’s something that really resonates with me. He thought a lot about what people needed. He thought a lot about what people didn’t know they needed. And that for me is probably what’s most inspiring.

JB: Yeah, I would completely agree with that. And maybe that ties in to this question number two here in the final five. Luke, is there one company that you personally have a brand crush on because you think their marketing is just absolutely rock star?

LB: This is kind of cheating because they’re customer of ours, but I do have a big brand crush on KLM. I think they’re on the shortlist of brands that’s really crossed those boundaries that we were just talking about. And if you’ll allow me to share a quick story, I just love this one.

JB: Sure.

LB: It’s about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Their frequent flyer program is called Flying Blue. They had an elite Flying Blue member in their lounge, and he went to get his favorite daily newspaper. It wasn’t there. He was upset. He tweeted KLM that his newspaper wasn’t there, and he didn’t like it. That system went into their social customer service system, Service Cloud. That customer record from his Twitter account was mapped up to his frequent flyer account, so they could see he was super elite. They routed that to the right program, the right agents who work it. They had mapped in their transactional ticketing system into Salesforce, as well, so they were able to see that he was on a flight that was leaving in 45 minutes, or whatever the time was. They then, using Chatter, reached out to the flight attendant aboard the flight, who had an iPad, who got the notification that this was happening and the customer had this need, she walked out to the kiosk in the terminal, bought his newspaper, and had it waiting for him on his first-class seat when he got on the airplane.

That’s a true story. It sounds apocryphal, but it’s true. That’s the kind of customer delight and customer experience that you can create when you think bigger about how your customer relates to your brand, and you have the right tools in place.

HY: I love the power of social for travelers. As somebody who flies a lot, myself, I can’t imagine doing so before social. It’s come in handy for me so very many times when I’m in a rush situation, and all I have is my mobile device and a few seconds to send off a tweet. But it’s just totally come in the clutch. That’s a great story. Luke, if you had 10 per cent more budget for marketing this year for Social Studio but you could only invest in one strategy or channel, what would you pick and why?

LB: That’s easy. Social channel for sure. I think I would pile it up, make sure that I’m getting my message out, and my story out on Facebook, on Twitter. Backing that up with ads because we know reach goes up 10 to 50 times with it boosting. And just making sure people understand the value of the story that we’re trying to tell.

JB: Absolutely. Luke, our listeners love to read, so question number four for you concerns what book would you recommend our listeners pick up and read, and why?

LB: If it was about social specifically, it’s a bit of an oldie but a goodie at this point, but Grouped by Paul Adams. I think really talks about the power of the social graph and some of the complexity and nuance in it. Just more generally, for me as a communicator, Dan Roam’s Back of the Napkin is a great book about visual storytelling, about communication, and how to change people’s ideas. I know you asked for one, I gave you two. Sorry, I cheated.

HY: Awesome. No, the more the merrier. I like the suggestions. I hadn’t heard of the second one and I want to look into it. Luke, what would you say if you could just pick one word alone to sum up the state of marketing, what would that be?

LB: It may be slightly negative, but I think the word is conflicted. I think we’ve talked a lot about the promise of where cross-channel marketing and omnichannel marketing. And omnichannel, really, consumer experience can go and I think a lot of brands have bought into that vision but are still really holding tight to the tools, the mentalities, the processes of the past. And it’s going to be a journey we’re all going to be on together over the next several years. But people have to resolve that conflict and every brand is going to have to do it for themselves.

JB: I think that’s a great way to wrap up our conversation today, Luke. I cannot tell you how great it’s been having you on board today. Thanks so much.

Folks, you’ve been [reading] our very special discussion with Luke Ball. Luke is senior director of product management here at Salesforce, where he leads our social listening products. Great session today. I want to also remind everybody that if you’ve enjoyed listening to this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast, Heike and I would really appreciate your going over to iTunes and rating us. We take those ratings and reviews very, very seriously. Also, we want to remind you that if for some reason you have not yet subscribed to the Cloudcast, do it today. Easy to do by going to, and you can also find us on Google Play Music, Stitcher, or wherever else you like to listen to podcasts. So, on behalf of my colleague Heike Young, I’m Joel Book and thanks so much for listening, and we look forward to having you alongside for another episode of the Marketing Cloudcast real soon.

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