By Luke Bujarski
Out of the 49 countries in which Teleperformance operates, it was the marketing team in Brazil that was chosen to develop the company’s new solution for enterprise social media (SM) management. Nearshore Americas gained an exclusive look into “e-Performance“, last week in Paris – and we tracked Charlene Li, a leading social media expert, to talk about the social explosion and the implications for global outsourcers. Li is a New York Times Best Selling author of Open Leadership and Founder of social media research firm Altimeter Group. She told us about what’s driving social media adoption, how outsourcers can bring value to enterprises in the space of social media management, and why Brazil proved to be a strong fit for taking on the development of the e-Performance solution.
NSAM: Why has social media become such an important medium for customer relationship management (CRM)?
Li: That’s simple – because many customers today are initiating their relationships with companies through social media. This is their medium of choice; they are on Facebook, blogs, twitter and You Tube. For enterprises, the choice is simply whether or not they want to be part of that conversation.
What value can outsourcers bring to enterprises when it comes to social media?
Li: Organizations really struggle with scaling social media support. For the most part enterprise teams are small and highly skilled. But if you do need to scale, that becomes a challenge. If you have millions of customers and thousands of conversations happening every day, you have to scale quick and it becomes a numbers game. Plus you don’t necessarily need your highly skilled people answering some of the more basic interactions. The thought of training internal staff to answer all of the different types of questions – both skilled and basic – is very difficult. Outsourcers have the opportunity to take that training burden off companies through economies of scale, and to provide holistic customer relationship management not only in social media but also phone and chat. It’s all about integrating social media into everything else that you’re doing when it comes to CRM.
The problem is that companies are typically lousy at measuring value. They are very good at measuring ‘activity’ on social media, but they may not necessarily understand the value that it creates.
Is social media about marketing or customer relationship management?
Li: What’s the difference between marketing and CRM? The two are really becoming interchangeable with each other. The difference is the mentality that goes into each of these. Marketing has traditionally been about sending messages out, not about dialog. Any given customer has different ways they interact with products and services. As a customer, sometimes I want to be marketed to. I want you to feed me information. Sometimes I want the company to be more proactive which is where SM comes in.
How important is it to quantify return on investment (ROI) for SM?
Li: I think it’s extremely important, but ROI is the wrong metric. It’s value that’s key. Value and ROI are two very different things. I can’t tell you what the ROI is of an office receptionist or the coffee pot that gets your employees up in the morning. I can’t even tell you what – in many cases – the ROI of CRM is. I know what the value is but that’s different. So the key question is how to measure value within that organization and to make sure your SM strategy is measured against those values. The problem is that companies are typically lousy at measuring value. They are very good at measuring ‘activity’ on social media, but they may not necessarily understand the value that it creates.
Why is mobility so hot with social media?
Li: Users are spending half their time on social media applications through mobile devices. Ultimately, it makes sense because you’re not sitting there reading tons of text, you’re typically sending quick-short frequently updated content which is perfect and custom made for mobile devices.
What is the next hot social media platform enterprises should focus on?
It’s not so much about the next hot thing, but rather scale and where most people are. Enterprises should master Facebook before bothering with anything else. New SM technologies come out about every two years so rather than focus on the next big thing, tackle volume first. That’s Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and your proprietary media, your blogs and website content.
Your market data shows that Brazilians have among the highest rates of adoption when it comes to social media. Why is that?
Li: It’s partly cultural – there’s definitely something in the water so to speak, but it’s also about language and availability of content. Portuguese is a unique language and until recently there hasn’t been a lot of mainstream content for Portuguese communities to absorb. So people are using social media to develop their own discussions and their own content to fill the void. The Philippines also has a very high rate of adoption, but the situation is different. Most speak English and are exposed to the mainstream, but they are also a highly social, highly connected culture that is drawn to social media.
Did it surprise you that Teleperformance chose Brazil to develop their SM solution?
Li: Not at all. People assume that they [Latin America] are behind but they really are not. I travel to the region often and in just two years countries like Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico have developed very similar ecosystems that we’ve had in the United States. New SM markets like Latin America also give you the ability to leap frog old standards you often see in more established markets like the U.S. As early adopters we’ve been bogged down [in the U.S] because we now have in-house social media teams and strategists that have been resisting innovation at the enterprise level. They resist change because they don’t accept the growing role of outsourcers in this space. The Brazilian consumers are also extremely connected and extremely vocal, so TP’s customers actually came to them asking for solutions they did not have time to develop in-house. This gap created a high-growth market for outsourced SM management services in Brazil.