Let’s be friends
How social media is changing the conversation
Social networks are transforming the lives of connected consumers and their relationship with brands. The latest Connected Life study published by Kantar TNS analyzes how digital technology transforms consumer behavior and shows:
• 58 percent of people see social platforms as an appropriate (and possibly preferred) place to access content on brands;
• 36 percent use them to search for brand information.
More than ever, social media is now fully integrated into every stage of the consumer journey, from seeking information, to activation and customer service, to such an extent that nearly one in two French consumers (48 percent) see social networks as the ideal place to express their feelings about a brand, whether that’s positive or more critical, and 33 percent use it to ask a question of the brand, such as the availability of a product, or the opening hours of a store.
Social networks are a privileged space for dialogue between brands and their consumers. Brands have traditionally pushed out their message, through advertising messages and branded content, but different rules apply in the digital world. Social networks are a forum for discussion between consumers themselves, and between consumers and brands.
Alongside the rise of social networks has been the boom of instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SnapChat. Instagram is also strong in this area; 21 percent of French consumers use it daily, an increase of 195 percent compared to just two years ago.
According to a recent study sponsored by Facebook, 63 percent of respondents said they had chatted with a company via instant messaging in the last two years - 56 percent prefer to send a message to them rather than call.
Beyond exchanging news and photos with family and friends, there is a real role for consumers to use social networks’ messaging platforms to engage with brands. This could be at the time of consideration (with pre-sale information), at the time of purchase, or after purchase, to understand levels of satisfaction (or disappointment).
In dialogue mode, in which a consumer asks a question and a brand responds, consumers appreciate being able to interact with brands in this way because it is simple, fast, informal and creates proximity. These applications of instant messaging also offer opportunities to create and connect with a community and thus create social bonds and a sense of affinity. Indeed, according to a study conducted by Facebook IQ in 2016, one in two people said they were more likely to buy from a brand they could talk to in this way, and two-thirds said the possibility of making a payment via instant message was appealing. Already, Pizza Hut offers its customers the option of ordering their pizza directly via Facebook Messenger and to simplify the ordering process by linking their Pizza Hut account with their Facebook account, which saves them adding their address and payment details every time they order.
This kind of social consumer relationship management is now helped by the rise of artificial intelligence and chatbots, which make it possible for brands to answer questions and deal with queries even faster and more effectively. eBay in fact, with its ShopBot, provides a guide to consumers on the products they are looking at. These bots are becoming increasingly human in their ability to converse naturally. VoyagesSNCF.com’s bot (French railways) makes a point of trying to be humorous in its conversations with consumers.
Another use of social media and instant messaging is developing very quickly: customer service. Twitter is full of complaints from unsatisfied customers, whether they challenge the brand to find a solution or express their frustration in the hope that the brand will notice and offer to help. Whether a bot or a real-life community manager is fielding the tweets, it’s the speed of response that’s prized by consumers. In the digital world, brands are expected to respond within the hour, and on @SG_etvous, Société Générale is committed to responding in 30 minutes.
As a result, social networks and especially instant messaging apps, are emerging as a natural tool for connecting with consumers, engaging in conversation with them, or even going so far as to make a sale – in less time than it takes to type a message with both thumbs!