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Article first published in the Digitalist September 19

Gone are the days when consumers turned to the Yellow Pages to look up the number for a local repairman, or asked a neighbor to recommend a home repair product. Now, consumers are Googling YouTube videos to fix a leaky pipe or running toilet. They’re pursuing DIY blogs and Pinterest pages to plan home renovations. And they’re taking to Yelp and other review sites to voice their displeasure over product or service problems.

Most consumers – 88% – trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, reports BrightLocal. Great online reviews can turn your new product into an overnight success. Conversely, bad reviews not only sink your product’s sales, but can also undermine your brand’s integrity and reputation. In a virtual sea of tweets, pins, likes, favorites, shares, and comments, how can a business keep pace with what’s being said about it and its products?

The solution: social listening and social engagement. Companies must take advantage of social networks and online review sites in B2B and B2C to create a new world of selling opportunities and product improvements. This includes sensing demand, generating leads, engaging consumers throughout the sales cycle, and prompting responding to customer dissatisfaction/product concerns.

Leaders in the building products industry must learn to better integrate social media, quality management, traceability, and targeted marketing to increase customer satisfaction, shrink the sales funnel, and reduce warrantee costs.

From online commentary to offline action: a social engagement case study

Check out this infographic, which includes an example of a real-time building products business process.  The graphic demonstrates how social engagement is closely connected with supplier collaboration, business networks, workforce engagement, and Big Data analysis.2016-09-12_8-14-31
In the first step, end-consumers connect via mobile and social. A variety of valuable data is left behind on the web, ready to be analyzed and turned into action. This data ranges from users’ product review ratings on a website to consumers tweeting about their preference for one product feature over another.

Next, the building products company screens the social networks and consumer rating of its products. Structured and unstructured data are considered, and data from other sources supplement the data pool. Big Data analysis reveals three major areas that seem to be dominant on the Web: a quality issue, missing product features, and happy customers.

The data about the quality issue is sent over to the engineering and quality management department for further investigation of the issue. As a result, an engineering change request with high priority is issued. The user manual is updated to more explicitly tell the end consumer about the correct usage of the product. This new manual is published via various channels.

The marketing and sales department looks into requested product features and the significant number of happy customers.

Social engagement in the real world: 3 examples

Social engagement starts with identifying and engaging prospective customers early in the sales cycle. This allows your business to frame the buying process in your favor. For example, Mohawk Industries, Inc. is using social listening to identify prospective customers on Twitter, engage these customers with tweets, and then close transactions–all without leaving the Twittersphere. Lowe’s has a Pinterest “Build It!” board dedicated to DIY product ideas. Pins include links back to Lowe’s website so consumers can instantly purchase necessary project supplies.

Social engagement also means partnering with virtual influencers to amplify marketing messages. Kohler, for example, partnered with popular “Mommy Blogger” Elle Walker to create a video called How to Potty Train Your Kid in 5 Seconds. The video, featuring Kohler’s touchless toilet technology, became an overnight viral sensation, amassing more than 7 million views. James Sandora, Kohler’s director of global digital strategy and management, told AdAge that the video has generated “significantly more engagement than any other content we’ve created.” Purchase intent registered via social media shot up, says Sandora, who indicated the video’s success was driving a whole new social media listening and engagement strategy for the ceramics manufacturer.

Start the digital journey

Your business cannot be everywhere at once. So how will you know when a customer tweets about wanting to buy your product, or worse, tweets a complaint about a recent purchase? Failing to immediately respond means missed sales opportunities and unhappy customers. And even if you did know when a customer tweeted about a product problem, how could you get this information to your products team in a timely manner to address the issue with future models? Social tech solutions can help.

Click here to learn more about digital transformation in the building products industry. To download the white paper, Digital Transformation in Building Products, click here.