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Social Service Is In Fashion

Clothing retailer Bonobos realized it needs to be where its customers are: on social media platforms. And that's opened up a whole new world of customer engagement.

5 Social Networks To Achieve 10 Business Tasks
5 Social Networks To Achieve 10 Business Tasks
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Bonobos may be on the cutting edge of men's fashion, but it was a bit more cautious when it came to customer engagement and support on social media platforms. However, the company realized that not engaging with customers on social media is like not answering a ringing phone.

John Rote, VP of customer experience at retailer Bonobos, said the company loved the idea of social media but was afraid of committing too much too soon at the risk of having customers "fall through the cracks."

"We were early advertisers on Facebook and a number of us had Twitter accounts, but for a while we were a little afraid of taking full advantage of it, even from a marketing and advertising point of view," he said. "We were afraid of what would happen when the floodgates opened."

[ These best practices will help you strengthen your social credibility: 5 Tips To Build Your Personal Social Brand. ]

After some early, admittedly rudimentary, steps into the provision of service and support on Twitter and Facebook, Rote and his colleagues saw that customers were eager to engage on social media platforms--more so than by email, for example, or phone. Rote said the company determined it needed to be where its customers were.

"With a lot of customers, once we started engaging with them on social media, we realized we had never had a call from this guy or an email from this guy, but here we are, and he's bringing his friends into the conversation on Twitter; he's very active on Facebook," said Rote. "Turns out there are a lot of people for whom the bar to engagement is pretty low for social media. They're really happy to become excited brand advocates. You just have to meet them on their own terms--which, for a lot of people, [are] Twitter and Facebook."

Bonobos also discovered a kind of continuous loop between customer service and brand promotion.

"What we saw was that the more engagement we had from a service point of view, the more participation we had from a promotions and marketing point of view, and it was just this reinforcing kind of cycle where we have people come in and do referrals over social media," said Rote.

Bonobos is now also monitoring for any mention of its name or its products on social media channels and is proactively engaging with customers and potential customers.

"We went from a defensive, 'let's tag things as service-related and assign them a tracking number' to popping into conversations," said Rote. "If anyone is mentioning Bonobos, chances are they are at least open to the idea of being contacted by us. Maybe not always, but if that's not what somebody wants, it's pretty easy to ignore someone on Twitter."

Bonobos uses technology from Desk.com, a Salesforce.com company, to route service inquiries and customer cases to make sure they are all getting addressed by the right people, said Rote. Bonobos also created a dedicated Twitter handle for service inquiries: @bonobosninjas.

Desk.com has helped Bonobos scale its social media efforts, according to Rote, but there is no denying that active engagement with customers in a variety of functions is challenging to implement and maintain. The alternative, however, is not an option anymore.

"People say to me, 'Are you sure you want to be that active on Twitter or on Facebook? It seems like it's adding a lot of work.' I say, 'Maybe we are doing more work now than we would otherwise, but people want to engage with you. If the phone was ringing, you wouldn't ignore the phone--you'd pick up the phone.' When we weren't taking full advantage of this we were essentially ignoring a lot of people who were open to the idea of engaging and interacting with us."

Is customer engagement on social media a must for your company? How are you making it work? Please comment below or email me at debra.donstonmiller@gmail.com. Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

Every company needs a social networking policy, but don't stifle creativity and productivity with too much formality. Also in the debut, all-digital Social Media For Grownups issue of The BrainYard: The proper tools help in setting social networking policy for your company and ensure that you'll be able to follow through. (Free with registration.)

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