5 design principles that drive customer experience marketing on social media

Traditional marketing was known for its backwards approach. The idea was to create a cumulative series of messages called brand impressions. Marketers bought materials and launched campaign after campaign, designed to generate enough awareness for the consumer to respond to these messages at the time of purchase and purchase the product.

Hannah Grove, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at State Street Corporation, calls it a cathedral model; this is where all you do is send messages from top to bottom. In this world, a brand talks a lot about itself, its products and services, and how it is better than the competition.

In an interview with MIT Sloan Management, Hannah describes a paradigm shift towards a social business model, she calls it a market model where the customer is the center of the universe. In this world, the focus is on creating value for customers, enabling them to gather more ideas, more information and help them overcome the challenges they face.

Hannah describes the essence of customer experience marketing, it’s a paradigm shift and paradigm shift isn’t easy. In the interview, she talks about the value and necessity of a social enterprise approach to achieve a customer-centric approach.

I believe there are five design principles that guide social customer experience marketing.

Building the right culture

A growing body of evidence suggests that engaged employees help businesses in several important ways. Gallup researchers studied the performance differences between engaged and actively disengaged work units and found that the top quartile outperformed the bottom quartile units by:

  • 10% on customer ratings
  • 22% profitability
  • 21% productivity

There were substantial differences in other factors such as turnover, absenteeism, contraction and security incidents to name a few.

Building a culture that enables engaged employees to thrive requires leadership and strategy. In her interview, Hannah Grove talks about Collaborate, which is their strategy for engaging their employees on social tools.

She describes a careful and deliberate effort to educate and then gradually deploy the effort. The key to this strategy is to recognize that a different mindset is needed. If you want to embrace customer-centric marketing, you have to become a customer-centric organization.

Each organization must discover the approach that best fits its business model; there is no one size fits all. A culture that embraces learning and collaboration will certainly have an advantage. Delivering a customer-centric experience requires cross-functional collaboration, so make sure all functions within the business are properly represented in this effort.

Creation, retention and reorientation of content

Relevant content is essential in helping clients gather the ideas and information needed to overcome their challenges. This is the ultimate goal of the customer-centric approach that Hannah was talking about earlier.

Content is the new currency of marketing. Consumer behavior and expectations are changing rapidly; powered by technology and social platforms. Consumers are empowered and connected in a way that has left many brands behind.

Content creation is nothing but original material written by your organization. This content may be generated by volunteers or external contract editors. There are many strategies for procuring this type of material.

Organizing content is sharing the work of others for the benefit of your audience. This strategy helps you engage with those in the broader marketing ecosystem and often elevates your role as a thought leader in your niche.

I first heard about content shifting when I read Content Rules from Ann Handley and CC Chapman. In this great job, they offer a number of suggestions and strategies for creating and organizing content. They talk about reusing content. This speaks to the essence of providing useful content; it is content tailored to the specific platform and the appropriate stage of the buying journey. The book is a great resource.

I recommend starting with a content strategy. This approach will help you define the types of content that will help your customers through each step of the buying journey. Keep in mind that post-purchase content is often the most useful and helpful for customers.

Then, I propose an editorial calendar. Creating and curating content takes discipline and coordination. I find this tool useful in organizing and coordinating this effort; this is especially important when collecting content from volunteer authors within the organization.

Know your customer’s buying journey

Most of us are familiar with the iconic buying or buying funnel. The basic idea is to start with a large number of suspects and prospects at the top of the funnel and as you move up the funnel the role of marketing is to qualify, nurture and convert suspects to leads, then leads to qualified leads, qualified leads to completed sales, and finally to buyouts, if applicable.

The very nature of the model assumes a somewhat linear process. Basically you start at the top and work your way down the funnel, of course assuming you’re unfiltered.

image credit http://adamhcohen.com/the-new-marketing-funnel/

Recent research from McKinsey & Company suggests that the buying process is very different. Far from being linear, it is circular and complex. Most importantly, it recognizes the importance of the post-purchase experience and the role it plays in future buying decisions.


I recommend mapping the buying journey for several reasons. It’s a great way to initiate cross-functional collaboration. The process typically identifies gaps in the customer experience that can and should be addressed.

This exercise typically helps promote participant engagement and models the kind of alignment that can result from customer-centric collaboration and vision.

Design a seamless experience

A GfK study found that 6 in 10 online adults in the US and UK use at least 2 devices per day, 25% in the UK and 20% in the US using at least 3 devices.

A large portion of cross-device users, 53% of US adults online, start an activity on one device and then switch to another to complete the activity. This number rises to 77% of those who own 3 devices.

I have seen other studies reflecting similar results.

Consumers increasingly want to engage with brands that allow them to connect when, where and how they want. Providing this kind of utility requires collaboration and coordination.

At a minimum, you need to make sure that consumers are able to engage with your brand on mobile devices. I strongly suggest you experience this for yourself. If you haven’t already, try the find and buy experience from your smartphone or tablet. What is the experience?

Can you find what you are looking for?

Is it practical? What happens when you change devices during the process? You will quickly find that there is more to it than just adaptive design.

You might want to survey your customers to find out what they think about it.

Building a community

Social tools play an important role in building internal and external communities and are both essential to customer experience marketing.

External platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, You Tube and Pinterest are available for marketers. These are just a few of the many options available. The key is to find out which platforms your customers are using.

Facebook is by far the largest social platform accounting for around 71% of internet users.

While LinkedIn is only 22%, a closer look reveals that the numbers rise to 38% when targeting an audience with a higher education, defined as a college or post-graduate education.

Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram all have similar popularity ranging from 17% to 21% of internet users.

Don’t overlook the role of emails 71% to 85% of emails opened on their smartphone. The percentage varies by age group, with the highest percentage among people (30 to 39) and lowest (50 to 59) according to a survey by Constant Contact.

There are also internal tools like Yammer. In many cases, organizations have intranets that provide many options for sharing and collaboration.

Building community takes patience, skill and focus. Social media guidelines and policies are important building blocks. There are a number of free templates available. If your organization is in a regulated industry, you will also face governance issues.

Senior leadership education and support is extremely important to developing thriving internal communities and thriving internal communities is necessary for engaging external customer-centric communities. You will regularly find a wealth of useful information on specific social media platforms on the Maximize Social Business blog.

To start

If you want to know more about the social business approach, I highly recommend Neal Shaffer’s book Maximize your social network. In his book, he provides more detail on these and other important principles.

People always want to do business with people. Brands that embrace the social customer experience are better equipped to deliver this type of experience, and when they don’t, they typically have feedback to raise awareness, enabling them to fill those gaps.

If your organization has not adopted this strategy, you may be able to start by implementing some of these principles in your region.

Can you think of any brands that do this well?

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