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Top Takeaways from Khoros Engage 2019 (Part 1)

by Phil Garbrecht | Sep 11, 2019

“It’s no secret that Khoros Engage is not just a conference,” said Spike Jones, Senior Vice President of Strategic Services at Khoros in his opening remarks. So, what caused 500+ busy executives and managers from brands including USAA, Google, and Facebook to fly into Austin? I wouldn’t fault you for thinking it was for the breakfast tacos; they are mighty good. But the truth is, Khoros Engage truly is “a family reunion.” Everyone came to discuss the state of the union for digital customer experience today.

Although many topics were discussed at Engage, this article dives into some key takeaways that can benefit all digital customer engagement professionals in their effort to create customers for life.

Brands win by leading in digital customer engagement

Khoros CEO Jack Blaha and CMO Katherine Calvert discussed the extremely high expectations of modern customers, in a new normal where brands are either “loved, or left.” This is true for every brand, across every industry, around the world. Whether you are a B2C or B2B brand, it’s vital to recognize that your customers have moved on from the days of being impressed by the best product. We’ve moved on to a new frontier: the relationship age. Today people buy from the brands that create and maintain a strong relationship with them.

So how can your brand stand out in the areas your customers care about? It starts with taking a hard look at where you’ve fallen short. For example, 88% of brands think they are engaging with customers at every point of need, but only 15% of customers say they regularly see brands engaging with them. To learn the most common divides between brands and customers, read our recent report created in partnership with the Forrester Consulting Group.

But being a digital leader doesn’t just mean adapting how your brand operates, it means adapting your own mindset. #1 New York Times Bestselling author Erik Qualman shared several great habits that will come in handy for every digital customer engagement professional looking to improve in their role. One of the most important ways is to develop a “not-to-do list”, or at least, a “not-to-do-yet list”. As Erik asked the crowd: “What’s the one thing that, if you do it well, will make everything else easier or unnecessary?” By determining that one thing, you can know what to attack first and control your urge to multi-task (which, real talk, often causes you to be unproductive).

Paid and organic social media are better together

Some things are just better together, like Spredfast and Lithium (shameless plug: check). Although organic and paid social media can seem to be at odds with each other, the truth is they are both equally important — and together can bring better results than they could individually.

Paid social media is vital for getting your products in front of your prospects and customers today. As National Instruments Social Media Strategist and Global Program Manager Danielle Stapleton put it, “we work in a pay-to-play world.” At the same time, today’s social media users still actively seek out knowledge from others and likely always will, as “social media’s roots are in community.” The organic value of people reading peer comments about your products and seeing how you value customers will never go away. These two types of social media aren’t complicated, and they are both here to stay, as Danielle illustrated with one of her favorite tweets:

Another great takeaway came from Cigna’s Global Social Media Manager Kristel Vite, who showed that organic content can be effectively repurposed for paid ads. Citing Cigna’s Body-Mind Connection campaign, Kristel described how the brand created a video with the help of Queen Latifah, Nick Jonas, and Ted Danson, which all three stars shared on their social media channels. This strategy netted the brand 5.4M+ earned views across owned and talent social media channels. Then, Cigna put money behind personalized content related to the campaign for their prospects. With creative approaches like this, brands can raise awareness and influence acquisition to a greater extent.

Proving the ROI of customer engagement is possible

Is there any social media manager out there who’s never had a mini panic attack when asked to show the business results of their work? In a room packed wall-to-wall, digital leaders from Synchrony and SAP shared exactly how they prove ROI, with numbers. Yes, numbers. And not the vanity kind.

Note that proving ROI will look different for every brand as they each have unique goals for social media. But in doing so, more investment can be secured in the channel. Here are some of the exact KPIs the panelists use in their organization to prove ROI.

How Synchrony’s VP of Social Media Nicole Johnson proves ROI:

  • Greater awareness for what the brand is and what they do in third-party studies
  • Positive share of voice
  • Relevant share of voice
  • Faster average time to acquire customers

How SAP’s Senior Director of Product Marketing Kosta Triantafillou proves ROI:

  • Positive brand sentiment shown in survey results, including NPS
  • Lower cost per acquisition
  • Shorter path to acquisition

Concluding thoughts

Becoming a digital leader doesn’t happen overnight, and once it’s achieved, brands must continue to find and execute new ways to deliver a better experience for their customers, in order to meet their ever-growing expectations. As Samsung’s Senior Vice President of Customer Care Michael Lawder said, “the world is changing, and today, customer expectations are not set by competitors, but by every interaction that customers have with the brand they like most.” 

Editor's note: Part two can be found here.

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