In the wake of the British public’s decision to leave the European Union, the UK housing market has entered a period of uncertainty. For some housing providers, the shock of ‘Brexit’ has triggered numerous concerns from how the vote might impact the ability to secure funding to build new homes (National Housing Federation), to how to stimulate buyer demand after three year lows (socialhousing.co.uk).
With these challenges in mind, there has never been greater pressure on housing associations to demonstrate both customer appeal and the ability to innovate. Social media can provide information, reassurance and for some, stability in the storm but only if organisations are prepared to plan for effective social media delivery.
In 2017, there will even greater focus on the three areas of innovation – including: social media driving up revenue potential; social media driving efficiency across the customer service function and the use of social media to unlock customer insights.
1. Social media is driving the bottom line
Over the past decade digital technology and online consumer behaviour has evolved dramatically. Eight in ten adults are now online (98% of 16 – 24 year olds and 43% of 65+ adults). Across the UK two thirds of online adults (66%) have at least one social networking profile, with 60% of these visiting their social network sites multiple times throughout the day (Ofcom). This enormous captive audience presents fantastic opportunities for organisations to not only better understand their customers by listening, but also to communicate their brand messages to influence the bottom line.
It is widely recognised by research organisations that because of this growth, adopting digital communication channels can not only provide opportunities for new ways of engaging, but have a positive impact on financial performance. An article published by the Harvard Business Review found that organisations who could effectively provide customer care via social media realised a 6.7% increase in revenues, whilst those that didn’t embrace social care saw a 12.1% decline. In fact, over 30% of users now say that they prefer to seek help or advice via social media, selecting it as their channel of choice over telephone and email.
2. More people and more efficient customer service delivery
In shifting to new ways of delivering customer service, there are also opportunities to create great efficiencies through automation of audit trails and enhanced team collaboration. Research by Gartner found that operationally an organisation can cater for eight times the amount of customer service requests on social media than by traditional telephone. Thus, providing better service for more customers, creating more capacity and driving down the costs of delivery.
3. Unlocking customer insights
Finally, social media chatter is replacing the need for expensive customer focus groups and the ability to ‘listen in’ is enabling brands to learn, not only about themselves but also about their competitors and the needs of their customers. For instance, The Hyde Group actively search for any posts relating to their brand name and key words like ‘repairs’ to proactively engage with their tenants where appropriate to ensure their reputation is upheld (download the full Hyde Group case study here).
Although these opportunities are there for the taking, to achieve results it is not as simple as creating social media accounts and providing employees with the passwords, which is something many organisations are starting to realise.
Harnessing the innovation for success in housing
Whilst many housing providers may have recognised the value of social media and established multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts, recent studies have shown that there is much work that organisations must do before they meet public expectations and can reap social rewards.
Currently only 28% of the public believe their landlords are confidently embracing digital opportunities, despite 70% of housing association leaders believing otherwise (Pwc). The study raised further doubts about data protection and cyber security – only one third of the public asked were said to trust their local authorities to safely manage and share their personal information (Pwc). These contrasting results highlight the stark difference between internal and external perceptions of social media usage.
Your checklist for success
To restore public confidence in the digital channels provided by housing associations it is important to tackle both the potential security risks of social media as well as establishing an effective way to engage with audiences.
There are several actions that can be taken to increase the success of your social channels – check below to see how many of these you already do and what more your organisation may need to focus on in the future to identify areas for improvement:
- You have clear objectives for each social media channel that help to drive your business strategy?
- You have company-wide buy in for your approach and action plans for delivery that promote consistency.
- You have created and distributed a social media policy, outlining company protocols around the establishment and management of social media channels as well as how to handle customer queries/complaints.
- You offer tailored training, for social media users and provide a ‘wiki’ style area to capture and share best practice.
- You insist operationally on secure IT protocols like individual user logins and audit trails to ensure the utmost security and protection for your customers and the brand.
- You actively listen to understand your audience and engage in relevant conversations.
- You have a crisis management plan in place to ensure that social channels can be controlled, managed and monitored even in times of crisis
- You frequently report on social channels to create an agile and responsive delivery environment by assessing impact and influence of key content and tactical approaches.
Once you have all areas ticked off it is essential that you resource the team to deliver engaging and relevant content, that not only drives a positive brand reputation but achieves the business objectives against which social media has been mobilised to achieve.
A social media management platform like CrowdControlHQ can provide you with the tools required to not only secure your social media accounts, but also to promote collaboration and greater engagement with your audiences.
CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media management and compliance platform for enterprise environments, as recognised by Forrester (the global research organisation). For a no obligation discussion on the challenges your organisation faces with social media please contact Naomi Linford (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Enterprise Social Media Specialist