Rising Stars: Maria Ogneva on Scaling Social Media

A few months ago, I highlighted a few rising young stars in the SCRM world - a few 30s and younger who are not just making names for themselves - that's not that hard to do - but are providing meat on the bone - substance that businesses can actually learn from in a discipline like SCRM which is still young and evolving.To that end,  you'll meet them in this series I'm going to be running here over the next few months.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

A few months ago, I highlighted a few rising young stars in the SCRM world - a few 30s and younger who are not just making names for themselves - that's not that hard to do - but are providing meat on the bone - substance that businesses can actually learn from in a discipline like SCRM which is still young and evolving.

To that end,  you'll meet them in this series I'm going to be running here over the next few months. It's not going to be sequential. That's far too organized for my disheveled self.  But it will be. And that's all you need, homies.

Our first in this series is Maria Ogneva. Let me tell you something about her, k?

To call Maria Ogneva a "rising" star is a bit disingenuous really.  She is already star in her own right, as Social Media Director and chief blogger at Attensity and has her own blog SocialSilk. She is someone with a young, well known and strong presence in the social world.  She is also very very smart and willing to put her opinions out there - which when it gets down to it is the formula for "influencer" - if the opinions are backed up by more than speculation - which hers are.  Also. Published on Mashable on SCRM awhile back, she is someone I've been following for awhile. Here's why you should. Read what she's got to say about something practical.  You'll see what I mean.  Here's Maria (audience goes wild, cheering and clapping as she walks out on the posting stage).


Imagine the following scenario… An angry customer tweets you with a cry for help. If she doesn’t get a response within a day, she may get mad, tell all her friends on Facebook and Twitter about the crummy product and service, and post negative reviews on opinion sites. Now imagine 10,000 people talking about you, spanning the gamut between positive and negative reviews, questions and cries for help. Now they are coming from all over the world, tweeting when they are awake and you aren’t. Are you sweating yet? I am not trying to scare you, but this is no longer a hypothetical situation; this is really happening. We as businesses need to keep up, scaling our listening and response.

It’s safe to say that social media is past the stage of early adoption, heading straight into mass-market adoption, with no signs of slowing down. In fact, it's the #1 activity on the web, as reported by Mashable, at close to 30% of all activity, almost doubling vs. last year. Social media is great for both brands and customers: it presents a benefit to customers and consumers as they get greater and more transparent information passed through a peer filter, while companies can collaborate with, learn from and understand the social customer at many different touchpoints. At the same time, this explosive growth brings with it challenges and “growing pains.” One of these challenges is the growth in conversation volume, punctuated by the deteriorating noise-to-signal ratio. Companies are turning to their 24x7 customer organization – customer service – to take on these new norms of customer engagement. Here are some issues to think through as you scale your operations to deal with the evolving social business climate:

Scale your listening and analytics:simplistic monitoring tools are no longer enough; we need smart analytics, routing capabilities, smart filters and more effective response, powered by community wisdom from public / private communities / web forums. If you are dealing with 10x the volume of social media conversations vs. last year, you aren’t necessarily hiring 10x more people, and your social media team can’t work 10x the hours. You simply need better and smarter processes and tools to help you. Moreover, fragmentation of social media now means having to listen across many more platforms and networks. I am not advocating adding every freshly minted social network to your listening arsenal; you will need to make a judgment call on what has merit, and what channels are important to your customers.

It’s getting harder and harder to extract meaning from social media, because it’s unstructured and doesn’t fit neatly into a Likert Scale. But don’t despair; more data points can give you richer insights, as long as you have the tools necessary to parse and analyze. Word of caution: you should be able to just as easily parse through enormous datasets as through 20 tweets, because you never know what your growth pattern will be. We at Attensity have dedicated ourselves to solving the business problem of listening and response, in order to meet the demands of social media volume, so stay tuned for some really cool product announcements at the end of this month.

Scale your Social CRM Program: Recently, Paul Greenberg, the very prolific and fearless author of this column, authored a post, in which he referred to Social CRM as a program. I love that way of thinking about it; SCRM is so much more than a platform or even integration of data sources. At the heart of the Social CRM implementation are better processes, enabled by technology, and driven by employees and management who are on the same page about the importance of tending to traditional and social channels at the same time. That last piece is the hardest, and may be a major stumbling block to doing any of the stuff in this article. Let’s suspend disbelief and assume that the C-suite is completely on-board and all departments are committed to working together.

Next step is to think through your response, collaboration and analysis process: what do you do from the time you capture a tweet for the first time, to the resolution, and after. When thinking about response, you should think through crisis as well as normal “peaceful times” response (don’t letNestle orDunkin DonutsFacebook debacles happen to you!). Let’s consider our tweet in the night scenario. Who does it go to? How do you track it? How do you reference the internal CRM record when they tweet you for help? When the support rep responds via the customer’s channel of choice (Twitter, in this example), the customer record should update automatically, or at least you should make it easy for the rep to do. This will ensure that everyone is working from the same virtual page, regardless of the job function. The above is easier to do when you don't have massive volume of social media messages to deal with. However, if and when your product faces mass adoption (not a bad problem to have, right?), volume is going to become a larger issue. The greater the volume, the more pronounced the need for a better process: from data capture, to the right alerts and routing, to proper notation and fast dissemination of knowledge. The more complex the customer problem is, the more important workflow and realtime internal sharing are going to become, since many people will likely have to touch the problem. With more routine issues that have a lot of volume, it's helpful to have a knowledge-based system that can point the service rep to the right resource in either internal or external forum or knowledge database.

Just as important as response to inbound messages is the formation of outbound activity processes, whereby content that’s created is shared and used. When someone on the content side writes a whitepaper or a blogpost, does the sales team know where to look, in order to leverage it in conversations with clients? In the end, each customer touchpoint should be an experience that’s right for that customer at that time (regardless of how many of these experiences you are creating), whether it’s individualized attention to a customer query or being able to custom-design the product.

Scale your human resources: Once you figure out your processes and get senior management on board (piece of cake, right?), you need to mobilize your most important resource. At the end of every social media experience is a living, breathing human – that’s why it’s called social media. Do you have the right people in place; have they been trained properly to provide the right experience for the customer they are touching? Social media doesn’t sleep, so you should use global distribution of your workforce to your advantage. You also need to decide if your existing support team will take on social media, or if you will recruit separate social media support. I recommend the latter, as written communication and social media engagement is a different skill than phone communication. Whichever you decide to do, traditional and social support should not be treated as separate – they should be part of the customer service & experience organization.

Furthermore, you should invest in some community managers and content creators, who will roll up to the social media / community director. This is a crucial hire who sets strategy and ensures successful execution. Whatever you do, don’t create a silo out of social media; ensure that your social team works with every necessary department.

Scale your technology: Finally, none of the above is possible without the right technology that can scale quickly as your needs dictate. We already went over scaling your listening and response platform. But what happens after? If you are relating social media messages to internal CRM records, how are you archiving them? How are you relating the two: via email addresses, via screen names? You also need to think through TOS constraints of your data providers – i.e. can you store the data? Are there privacy concerns when you are relating social data to the customer record? How are they different by country? When you are analyzing your social media messages en masse, does your platform allow you to go through thousands of records to identify key conversation drivers? How does it do that?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of issues to think through in regards to scalability; however it’s a start. What are some things that you think are important for scaling that aren’t mentioned in this article?

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