Another area that is being talked about more and more in the commercial world is the business of ‘Social CRM’ (Customer Relationship Management). In a recent AdAge article, Michael Scissons makes the point that many marketers now have more fans and followers across social networks thanthey do email or direct marketing subscribers. Whilst this may not be strictly true for UK public sector Communications & Marketing professionals, it is the case that those that have made the commitment to follow their NHS trust on twitter or engaged with their housing provider on facebook are far more engaged than the passive recipients of a print campaign through their letterbox.
This engagement is incredibly valuable because it is discretionary rather than happening by default. Thus, if the correct approach is taken, in this social following there is the great potential for you as public sector MarComms professionals to cultivate genuine ambassadors for your organisation and its services. To do this effectively it is important to become a source of relevant and valuable content to your online community by talking about the things that are important to them.
Scissons’ article goes on to emphasise the importance of data—and indeed, recommends a number of different technologies and tools to achieve this—but I think much should be borrowed from the thinking behind ‘Social CRM’ rather than the technological aspect, by public sector organisations who are active on social media channels.
The underpinning principle in this article is that ‘Social CRM’ will enable you to gain customer insight and then to act upon it. Whatever the scale of your organisation’s presence on social media, it is undeniable that these channels can provide a unique ‘lens’ into the opinions, expectations and preferences of your current service users.
In fact, during an age where many UK public sector organisations—the NHS and Housing Sectors in particular—will need to become more competitive online, reacting to these insights could also help with the acquiring of new service users.
This is because knowledge is power, and unlike email marketing campaigns, your connections on social media talk back and so the insights gained in this area will enable communications and marketing teams to better plan content and campaigns, and even to anticipate and make changes to service delivery where necessary.
In essence, in the public sector context a ‘Social CRM’ strategy should be less about replacing other technology and delivery channels, and more about trying to better understand and respond to the needs of your patients, tenants or stakeholders. Ultimately, this will allow public sector organisations to take a more agile approach to communications—and indeed service delivery.
An effective social media monitoring strategy is an essential part of doing this successfully, and this is one of the key areas of focus at our upcoming Housing and NHS Hot Topics events that will take place in London and Manchester in October and November.