3 Ways to Build Peer-to-Peer Engagement

Social media marketing is everyone’s job, including your customers. Cliché? A stretch? Think again: you already know that your customers will readily take you up on your offer to make their own experience better and as this happens, they will be more and more likely to recommend you. In other words, they’ll willingly become part of your marketing team. In fact, they’ll demand it.

The challenge for you is two-fold: first, you need to know what they want and second, you need to deliver it in a way that they recognize their role in creating it. Among the best ways to accomplish this is by combing peer-to-peer engagement with your other marketing efforts. 

Peer-to-peer offers a “plus” to your marketing program in at least three key areas: gamification and the notion of building game-like experiences into self-directed support and ideation, innovation based on driving feedback from customers, and the provision of detailed solutions to very specific customer issues. Each of these can measurably improve the overall customer experience and thereby lift satisfaction, renewal rates, and of course, the likelihood of being recommended.

1. Gamification

While the term is used more often than it probably should be, gamified experiences are fun and challenging. Think Foursquare “mayors” or Trip Advisors “top reviewers.” As customers earn or work their way into higher levels, others see what’s going on and then join in, building engagement. Higher-ranked customers guard their status, too, and often to work to maintain it. The operational trick is to link the gamification elements to your business objectives. Where the “mayor’s” attribution feels great, it’s more likely that a support community superfan – also a result of a gamified experience – produces more “real” business value, since the actions of that superfan can be tied directly to support community performance and hence, core business ROI.

When building your peer community, gamify the experience: let your rank structure and the hierarchy of earned roles reflect the behaviors that your customers will find engaging or challenging. By building game dynamics into your peer-based social media program you’ll encourage your customers to challenge – and be challenged by – each other. The net result for your business will be enhanced engagement in a social channel that you own and control.

2. Gathering Feedback

To be sure, generating ideas in a peer community is a well-known best practice. But there are some often-overlooked nuances that lead to great success. Encouraging community members to refine and vote on ideas, for example, is a great way to speed and scale innovation. Imagine that your customers suggested 1,000 new features. What would you do? Now imagine that of those 1,000, your customers combined and refined these ideas for you and ultimately produced a prioritized list of the top three or top five ideas. Much better.

The ideas, however, are only the beginning: you’ve got to act on them. Once you’ve taken these customer-generated ideas and built around them, the best practice is to publicly report on the outcome, taking specific steps to ensure that the individual(s) responsible for the original ideas are rewarded. On the subject of the reward, it’s not cash or a gift; it’s peer recognition, something that builds on your rank, role, and gamification elements.

3. Redirection

This is not the same as transferring a request posted on Twitter to email, a practice that is typically not well-received by customers who prefer resolution in their channel of choice. Instead, it’s recognizing that it is often in your, as well as your customer’s, best interest to resolve common problem in a peer-to-peer context rather than via social agent or phone. But not all customers naturally choose peer services first.

Peer services are beneficial for your business because they are typically less costly, available 24/7, and typically cover a much wider range of potential issues than a phone-based agent can. Solving your own problem also generally has a positive mental impact. In an age of connected, empowered consumers, giving over the ability to resolve issues conveys a certain sense of control, which can be a significant factor in driving solution satisfaction.

So how do you do this? It’s easier than you think: as your customers “press 3 for Internet issue” and then “press 2 for router not online,” you can be scanning your peer-generated solutions, looking for relevant articles around re-setting a router gone haywire. As your customer is holding for an agent, tell him or her about the community and about the articles you’ve found. Even a small percentage of customers choosing to hang-up and visit the community results in a favorable impact to ROI.

If you are actively working with customers on social channels like Twitter before responding to a post, have your agents search the community. If a solution exists, send it to the customer via the originating channel – in this case, Twitter. This keeps the resolution in-channel, but also teaches the customer about the peer resources you offer that may have been overlooked. Once they see the peer community many will choose to join and thereby boost involvement and engagement in that community.

Three simple techniques, all built around peer-to-peer support. As you plan your total social technology effort, be sure to include peer-to-peer and incorporate gamification, feedback, and redirection into your plan. Your customers will thank you, and you’ll have more to show in the form of ROI where it counts.

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