If you treated your friends the way your brand treats your customers on social media, what kind of relationships would you have?
That’s the question you should ask if you’re trying to improve your social performance and generate revenue. Consumers expect brands to treat them like friends (or at least friendly acquaintances) by being attentive and personal, not ignoring their messages while spamming their feed with posts.
According to The Sprout Social Index™, consumers think the most memorable brands are the ones who respond to their customers (51%) and prioritize communicating with their audience rather than posting a lot of content (37%). Yet, only 8% of social marketers believe themselves to be leaders in customer care on social.
Now is the time to reflect on how much time your brand spends on customer relationship marketing, and how teams can work together to improve this function at your organization. In this article, we explain the role of personalized social media marketing and strategies companies can use to build customer relationships that lead to increased revenue.
What is customer relationship marketing?
Customer relationship marketing is the focus on building long-term relationships with customers across their journey with your brand—from the early stages of acquisition to retention and reactivation.
These enhanced relationships lead to increased customer lifetime value (CLV), engagement, loyalty and return on investment (ROI). Think of it like this: The more you put into building relationships with customers, the more your company (and your customers) will get out of it in the long run.
The role of social media in customer relationship marketing
Social media is a non-negotiable part of a relationship marketing strategy, as social is consumers’ go-to channel for interacting with brands. Social and customer care teams are instrumental in providing customer satisfaction and are on the front lines of interactions that define both one-to-one customer relationships and brand image on a large scale.
Because social media is more public than other customer relationship marketing channels, your followers pay close attention to how you’re treating your customers. A single interaction with a customer can create a lasting impression and an emotional response that ripples across your follower base and impacts your bottomline.
According to Index data, of the 1,817 consumers we surveyed, 76% agreed they notice and appreciate when companies prioritize customer support, and another 76% value how quickly a brand can respond to their needs.
To provide an exceptional customer experience, companies must be prepared to deliver a social media customer support strategy that is both timely and high quality—a challenging feat for teams who are already stretched thin. According to a Q3 2023 Sprout Pulse Survey, 63% of customer care professionals report a high volume of customer requests that translate to longer wait times and less intentional responses. Another 48% cite wasting time on manual tasks, while 41% have gaps in available customer information that make it difficult to handle requests.
As a marketing leader, you should lay the groundwork for deeper collaboration between social and service teams, and advocate for time-saving technology and integrations. Empower your team to provide the valuable, efficient and timely responses customers look for on social.
The 1-to-1 marketing and revenue connection
To help get buy-in for the value of customer relationship marketing, tie your efforts directly to potential revenue gains. There’s already a growing recognition that social efforts and interactions earlier in the customer journey—like audience engagement—aren’t just interesting, they translate to revenue.
In fact, according to Index data, in 2024, quantifying the value of social engagement in terms of revenue will be marketers’ primary way of demonstrating social’s impact on business goals.
Why are so many marketers sure engaging with audiences on social media translates to revenue? Because social teams see how engagement with social users within your target audience leads to new followers, which translates to loyalty, repeat purchases and increased CLV. The Index shows us that 68% of consumers follow a brand on social to stay informed about new products or services, and another 48% want access to exclusive deals or promos.
Social media is like the new shopping mall, and if you want to give your virtual storefront a chance to succeed, you need to build long-term relationships.
Customer relationship marketing strategies on social media
The first step toward effective customer relationship marketing is showing up. If your brand leaves customers on read, you risk making them feel unimportant or, even worse, send them into the hands of your competitors.
Here are three tangible ways you and your team can build customer relationships that equal more engagement, conversions and revenue.
Engage with audiences on social media
Social media is the go-to channel customers use to solve problems related to their order, ask questions about the latest product drops and announcements and share candid feedback about your brand and offerings. It’s critical for your team to participate in these conversations (even when you aren’t tagged or mentioned) to build long-lasting relationships with your customers.
As Azad Yakatally, Head of Social Media at Klaviyo, put it, “As the most accessible touchpoint for consumers, social media has become the call center, suggestion box and customer service desk for brands.”
When responding to customer comments, DMs and reviews, make sure your team:
- Maintains a consistent brand voice across all platforms.
- Uses automated responses wisely, making sure they don’t sound too robotic.
- Factors online review management into your strategy.
- Encourages customers to share positive experiences publicly.
- Has a system for routing escalations to the appropriate teams.
- Shares customer feedback with departments like product development or competitive intelligence.
Personalize social media marketing
Personalization is the new standard. According to the Index, 70% of consumers expect a company to provide personalized responses to customer service needs. While 30% of customer care professionals already agree it’s essential to do things like use a customer’s name in a response, true personalization goes deeper.
When personalizing initial responses on social media, your team should do things like:
- Humanize customer service interactions by empathizing with the feelings of your customers and the unique situations they’re in. Example: We understand how frustrating it must feel not to receive your order on time when you had such a big event coming up. Send us a DM so we can help make the situation right.
- Make specific recommendations based on your customers’ online behavior, even if they’re not directly related to your business. Example: We love that you’re taking our suitcase with you on your trip to Chicago! Have you checked out this guide to Chicago museums?
- Tap into customer data related to order histories and past experiences with your brand. Example: Thanks for tagging us in this video! We love that you were the first one to try our new product. Can we send you other new products to try in the future?
Once a customer slides into your brand’s DMs, personalized customer care requires an integrated tech stack that enables a clear flow of information between marketing, service and other relevant teams. You need to supply customer-facing employees with the intel they need to solve complex customer issues, answer questions and have a complete view of a customers’ journey with your brand.
Increase workflow efficiency
The Q3 Pulse Survey results reveal 45% of customer care professionals list integrated technology like customer relationship management tools (CRMs) as the most common way they address their biggest customer care challenges.
Index data demonstrates 96% of marketing leaders recognize this and have already pledged to integrate social data into their CRM solutions within the next three years. In the meantime, it’s essential for executives to share the value of customer relationship marketing and position social as the missing piece in the customer experience equation.
By doing so, CMOs and other leaders will break down silos and enable stronger collaboration org-wide—paving the way for more workflow efficiency in the future. This process requires those at the helm of marketing departments to ensure the social media management tools their team uses are equipped to integrate with CRMs and scale customer care functions.
For example, an intuitive platform like Sprout Social is built for quickly onboarding customer care teams, consolidating collaboration between social and care and seamlessly integrating with CRM solutions like Salesforce.
Customer relationship marketing examples
Here’s a look at real brands that excel at customer relationship marketing and have built experiences rooted in relationship building and responsiveness.
Chewy’s compassion builds loyalty
Chewy, the pet food, products and supplies retailer, has become synonymous with their support of grieving pet owners. They surprise many of their customers with personalized cards and gifts in honor of their dearly departed animals.
In this TikTok, user @spidergwenin reacts to a package she received from Chewy that contained a kind message and a painted portrait of her recently passed beta fish, Echo. The TikTok has received over 60,000 likes and 700 comments, many of which share equally heartwarming stories about how Chewy supported them during a loss.
@Chewy thank you thank you thank you this is the coolest thing a company has ever sent me 🥰🖤 betta chewy bettafish notsponsored notsponsoredbutshouldbe
Though many posts about Chewy’s compassion go viral, their one-to-one marketing efforts aren’t just reserved for famous creators. Any bereaved pet owners who contact Chewy are likely to receive a token of support. Like this Post on X (formerly known as Twitter), where a mourning pet owner shares the card and flowers she received from Chewy. Though this post didn’t generate a lot of buzz, Chewy’s team still took time to reply to the Post with words of encouragement. Chewy’s efforts help them maintain lifelong customer loyalty and priceless brand advocacy.
It’s clear Chewy’s customer relationship marketing strategy requires a lot of cross-channel coordination and, most importantly, true empathy for their customers. Engaging with audiences on social media is an excellent way to build your brand, but it’s important to make sure the entire support team is aligned on your customer marketing initiatives.
MeUndies uses customer feedback to evolve their product line
MeUndies, the disruptive underwear and loungewear brand, weaves customer care into the fabric of their brand ethos. Their handful of agents receive roughly 6,000 DMs each month on Instagram alone, yet make it a point to respond to each customer with attentiveness and speed.
On X, MeUndies receives a high volume of product feedback—mostly customers sharing their ideas for new products with the team. Like this Post from a user who asked for Hanukkah themed undies. MeUndies follows through on routing customer ideas to their development department. The social team even shares the good news with their customers when their ideas are being brought to life.
MeUndies’ approach to customer care has helped them carve out a niche in their industry, making them stand out as the providers of underwear and personalized customer care for everybody. MeUndies’ seamless and consistent customer care is supported by Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox and its internal collaboration tools.
McDonald’s responsiveness invigorates fandom
McDonald’s needs no introduction. The global fast food giant is a favorite in the industry, and that is due to its consistent service worldwide—both in brick-and-mortar locations and online. The McDonald’s team, like most ubiquitous brands, receives countless messages, comments and engagements each day.
Yet, the team replies to each individual comment and message, even when they aren’t directly tagged. Here’s an example of a recent exchange between a customer asking them to bring back an old favorite and McDonald’s responding with a form the customer can fill out to share the feedback with higher ups.
McDonald’s also succeeds at keeping a pulse on the fandom surrounding their brand, and playfully joining in to build brand affinity. For example, when the recent #GrimaceShakeTrend took TikTok by storm, McDonald’s was quick to play into it and doubled down on their Grimace campaign, causing their fans to flood their posts with positive engagements.
McDonald’s demonstrates what’s possible when you truly listen to your customers, and what can happen when you give them what they want. Whether it’s improved customer service, to bring back discontinued products or to get behind an internet trend involving your brand (even if it involves a large, purple blob covering “crime scenes” in milkshakes).
Make customer relationship marketing investments a priority in 2024
Just like in friendships, building long-term relationships with your customers (and potential customers) takes time. It’s not as simple as answering one DM or service call. It requires responding to each customer with a personal touch, and going out of your way to interact throughout the customer journey. This necessitates stronger internal collaboration and streamlined tools.
As you finalize your plan for 2024, think through the role of social in your customer relationship marketing plan—in the marketing department and beyond. Use the CMO’s social media marketing agenda for help identifying the biggest ways you can capitalize on these social efforts in the coming year.
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