We caught up with bazaarvoice’s VP of EMEA Marketing Prelini Udayan-Chiechi @prelini at Social Media World Forum Europe 2015 to chat about her views on the future of social media, the ever expanding and influential world of consumer generated content, and online recommendations. After creating a substantial buzz on the #SMWF hashtag with her keynote presentation on day one of #SMWF “Consumer Economy in The Digital Era”, we sat down with her to discuss the new vision for the digital consumer, and get some fantastic advice on social media from an industry pro.
What would you say is your “Number 1 rule” on social media for brands and companies?
“Established processes, human voices & trust” begins Udayan-Chiechi, “there should be some outline or established process that takes into account human voices, but most importantly you need to have trust in your teams. If you can trust your employees to answer the phone, and represent your company, you need to also trust them on social media”. An interesting point for many brands who are worried about allowing anyone but one or two highly trained colleagues to work on their social media outlets; emphasising the importance of a human voices coming through on social media outlets for brands, giving a personalised response rather than a robotic, “one size fits all” option.
How has the importance of user generated content changed during your time in the social media industry?
“The industry has changed massively from push content to much more pull content – where consumers and brands alike are viewing user generated content in a completely new light. 84% consumers today trust UGC and 90% trust peer to peer recommendations. Long gone are the days of brands pushing messaging in traditional channels, instead we are seeing more advanced brands, embracing the growing importance of UGC and adopting this into marketing efforts. ” says Udayan-Chiechi, further explaining that the growth of social media has opened a huge new outlet for consumers. In its infancy, user generated content started as people wanting to share their opinions – forums & comments was the start of this evolution. We have since seen much wide spread adoption, however we still have a way to go for companies of all sizes and industries, to be delivering for this “new consumer economy”.
What is your opinion on internet meme culture and the possibility of brand images being manipulated or misused?
“Brands need to remember that they don’t control content anymore” says Udayan-Chiechi, focusing on the positive aspects of the growth of meme culture, dismissing the idea that companies who are posting content on social media should be afraid of consumer input, “it’s about co-creation. Millennials today, feel your brand is a logo on a website, and they are co-creating the brand with you. So why not tap into this passion, and embrace your customers in ways that benefits both parties”.
What is your advice on dealing with negative feedback?
“Always respond” Udayan-Chiechi starts “our data has shown that responding with an apology and the offer of a refund or exchange can result in a 92% increase in intent to purchase and an 88% increase in product sentiment. Your customers are your best source of product feedback. If they are unhappy, this is an opportunity to help improve your product or service.” Using respected high quality retailer John Lewis as an example, Udayan-Chiechi explains an incident involving pillows which received complaints about quality levels. Acting on collaboration and advice from Bazaarvoice, John Lewis responded to the complaints by tackling the issue head on; taking feedback on board, and re-launching a new improved version. They then offered replacements to all customers who had complained.” If you listen and respond to your customers, you are not only building loyalty and trust, but more importantly your customers become your trusted source for improvements and future innovation”.
Would you recommend that a company looking to use social media uses all available platforms?
“Only those relevant to them,” responds Udayan-Chiechi, “choose the platforms and channels which will help you achieve your consumer engagement and customer experience goals – look for similar companies to what you and looking to achieve and start there. You might be more advanced then the companies in your industries – so push the boundaries and look to the leaders of the industries you want to aspire too ”. She raises another interesting point for brands and companies who are just starting to look into social media “If you don’t have the bandwidth to use social media properly, then don’t use it” she advises. “There is nothing worse then being on a social channel and not responding to your customers. It is no different to not answering the telephone”
What brands would you say are leading the way in terms of the fusion of online and offline content?
“In the UK, John Lewis and Philips are making strong headway by combining online and offline content. In particular, I see Argos and Adidas leading the way with digital in their stores.. In the US, Home Depot and Best Buy comes to mind”.