5 Reasons Why Branding is Vital

Let’s assume you’re thinking about a branding exercise; you’re ready to think about brand behaviours, what the brand believes in, a look and feel, your tone of voice and what makes your brand different. Then you think, why bother? Here are 5 top reasons why branding is important (spoiler alert: #5 is killer):

1. It drives your people

If you have a set of behaviours and beliefs you have a system by which your people can deliver the brand experience you want.

  • Is fastidious attention to detail essential in your architects practice to maintain that 100% project accuracy score? No one likes making errors, but we go the extra mile.
  • Brave, pioneering thinking at your agency the norm, while just doing the job isn’t what’s expected? Your people need to know.

Just as the examples above outline what people need to do when they are in role, a clear brand strategy sets the expectations of the type of people the company need. Recruitment gets easier when you know the brand experience you need to deliver.

2. It’s the message

Brands have a story. They have a background, a way of doing things and things they do different that sets them apart.

That story and those benefits work within your brand plan and should make their way into your messaging, headlines and About Us pages. Done right your brand plan is a ready to go messaging plan that you can use in your marketing and promotion.

People want to know about the brands they work with, buy or use. Just as buying an Apple product means something to people, the choice of that mega accurate architect or the ideas rich web agency says a lot about the choices you make to your boss.

3. It makes marketing plans easier

There are lots and lots of things you could be doing to promote your business beyond the must have web site. Planning activity be comes far easier when you have a set of brand behaviours and goals to work with.

A brand that believes in supporting entrepreneurial spirit and British business finds it easier to narrow down sponsorship opportunities. A ‘Best new start up’ competition VS. a programme sponsorship at Ascot becomes a no brainer.

4. It makes briefing new work better

That logo refresh, new website or brochure design all become far easier if your tone, look and brand personality have been nailed. Font selection, colours and photographic styles can vary greatly to create very different impressions.An uber cool, contemporary or traditional business would all look very different. A safe and dependable business will choose a look that’s very different from a maverick or cutting edge firm.

These are all descriptors that help tell a designer which direction to take, and invariably they will work in combination with other personality traits. Think of them working like navigating dials, that set direction and can be switched up or down. It’s amazing how many businesses or organisations undertake work without a clear brand direction in mind. Nailing it really helps.

5. It drives habit

If your business consistently delivers its brand plan across the multitude of ways it touches customers, it will be remembered. Then it can be talked about. You get referred.Keep delivering your brand promises and people come back for more. They keep remembering you. They know what to expect and it’s one less thing to worry about, so you become an automatic choice.

You’ve created a brand, one with commonly held, positive perceptions that people buy in to. Bingo.

Digital Marketing in 2015 – What Changed?

Are you one of those people that loves or loathes change? After a brief straw poll in the office this morning, I think it’s fair to say we’re a 50/50 split here. Some love the idea of moving forward, a new challenge and time to think outside of the box, yet some prefer the philosophy of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’

Well in 2015, the digital world was a year of change, progression and speeding forward. From Google’s mobile-friendly announcement that rocked the big hitters as well as the SMBs to the rise of web videos, this industry is not known for sitting still and last year was no exception.

In this article, I’m taking a look at the 4 big changes in 2015 that changed the way we do digital marketing forever…

1. We Declared Our Increasing Love For Mobile

In 2015 our love-affair for ‘information on the go’ continued to rise. More and more people were on their phones  looking for those how, what, where and when moments. Mobile data usage increased by 70% and if you’re aged between 16-24 then there is a pretty good chance you were in the 93% who had access to a mobile phone.* Mobiles increasingly play a huge part of our lives.

These stats indicate how important digital marketing has become, whether it be sponsored posts on social media, Google AdWords, email marketing or mobile-optimised content, mobile in 2015 continued to form a highly important part of digital marketing for both big and small brands wanting to reach their consumers.


2. We Had To Get Responsive

In February 2015, Google acknowledged the fact that we are loving mobile so along with announcing that searches on mobile devices had taken over those on computers in over 10 countries,they also announced that they would begin to use mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor. This change to search had  a significant impact on search results from April 21st 2015 and boy did it have an affect, from the likes of Next to The AA, Google’s announcement rocked the rankings of many a business.

Zooming on a website on your mobile phone is frustrating, hard to do and generally just a pain. The easy solution if you’re a consumer? Press back and go to the website which explicitly says its “mobile-friendly” in the Google results page. Because of the seamless way people expect to use their smartphones many will no longer accept anything less than a fully optimised site. So what should you do if your site is not up to scratch?Give your current web developer a slap on the wrist and make your site mobile friendly! Take a look at our Digital Health Check to see how your website is currently performing.

3. Social Media Advertising Was Really Born

50% of the population check social media daily. I’ve personally checked it twice and put out a tweet just whilst writing this post! In 2013, there was £7.6 billion spent on social media advertising. In 2015, there was £16.03 billion spent, and guess what? It’s not going to get smaller in 2016.**

Apart from the fact that there are billions of pounds being spent on this form of advertising, targeting specific audiences is also getting smarter. The “Sponsored Posts” are becoming more frequent and you know what, I’m totally cool with that. A good deal of the sponsored adverts that I see on Facebook are things I actually want to see films I’ve watched, business pages I’ve liked, places I’ve been and what I do in my job -I love it! The phrase ‘people love being sold to,’ cliché though it is, is true. I’m always interested to see how someone put everything about me into a box and came up with the fact I might be interested in a company who make Star Wars X-Wing Knife Blocks (don’t judge me)…

Social Media has become an integral part of our online marketing strategies. Gone are the days where you could SEO the hell out of your website and generate all of your sales and in are the days where a holistic marketing strategy encompasses Social Media, SEO, AdWords, email marketing, reviews and videos in order to utilise your marketing spend for so you get the most bang for your buck.


4. Web Video Took Off

Content is King… If I had £1 for every time I have heard someone say that then I would be able to afford a proper T-65 X-wing starship and not a chrome-plated knife block. Don’t get me wrong, I love my knife block, but imagine the amounts of likes and shares I would get on Facebook with a video of me flying around in one of those bad-boys!

Really though, content IS king and not just the written word , but visual, engaging and easy to digest content. Now, would you rather be reading this, or would you rather watch a video of me flying a T-65 x-wing starfighter and talking to you about the digital changes in 2015? I know, laser cannons win hands down.

The play button is becoming a central call to action on websites, emails and social media channels. You can tell a short, memorable story to build trust in your consumers and dramatically increase your conversion rates. In 2015, videos became a more and more important as part of holistic marketing strategies and are predicted to rise in popularity this coming year.

These days, almost all types of businesses can benefit from a well-produced video to showcase their business, products or services, with at least 64% of people more likely to buy a product or use a services having watched one. Here is a great example of a video we made for Simon Wright and his bespoke jewellery business.What other piece of content can do this?

So there you have it, the 4 big changes of 2015 that have transformed digital marketing strategies in businesses across the UK. Keep your eyes peeled on our Advice Centre over the next few days to see our predictions for 2016…


* http://media.ofcom.org.uk/facts/  / http://www.statista.com/statistics/271405/global-mobile-data-traffic-forecast/
** http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Social-Network-Ad-Spending-Hit-2368-Billion-Worldwide-2015/1012357

Creare Supporting ReachLocal Customers and Employees

Following the news that ReachLocal has gone into administration in the UK, Creare is working actively to provide support to affected clients and employees of ReachLocal.

As one of the UK’s leading digital marketing agencies and with the core brand value of Demystifying Digital, we are happy to step up and provide support, ensuring the impact on busy SMEs is minimal, particularly at this time of year.

Creare’s Chief Commercial Officer, Tom Darnell said:

“This has obviously been a difficult week for both the clients and employees of ReachLocal and couldn’t have come at a worse time. However, it is heartening to see the wider marketing community, including Creare, jumping to the support of ReachLocal clients and employees alike, ensuring the impact to business owners is minimal and that there is a lifeline for the many affected ReachLocal employees.”

For ReachLocal clients: Creare is offering free setup* for customers who transition their Google Adwords account to Creare (normally £500). We are on hand across the Christmas season providing a smooth transition to Creare from ReachLocal, ensuring minimal disruption to your Google Adwords campaigns as we head into 2016.

As a Google Partner and digital agency that operates with complete transparency, you can be confident your marketing investment is in safe hands. In fact, Creare places a much greater percentage of your budget directly into your click spend, meaning more leads and a better return on your investment.

ReachLocal clients can find more information at www.creare.co.uk/reachlocal

For ReachLocal employees: we appreciate the news you received last week couldn’t come at a worse time of year. As such, Creare has created a number of Associate Business Development Manager roles with an immediate start date for successful candidates.

The associate business development manager role will give a lifeline to ReachLocal sales professionals at this difficult time. In addition to an attractive remuneration package, Creare will offer a training & development programme, providing further skills and experience in our full range of digital marketing solutions – skills applicable for future roles at Creare or other organisations.

ReachLocal employees should reach out to Creare’s CCO, Tom Darnell, whose contact details can be found at the end of this press release.

– Ends –

Notes to Editor

About Creare

Creare provide a holistic digital marketing solution for small and medium sized businesses in the UK, including websites, ecommerce stores, search engine optimisation and pay per click marketing, social media and video. Established in 2007, Creare has helped over 4,000 businesses achieved a fantastic online presence through its range of solutions.

For further information, please contact:


Tom Darnell, Chief Commercial Officer, Creare

Tel: 07595 075724

Email: tom.darnell@creare.uk


Tips to Improve Your Brand – Part 2

The thinking behind a strong brand and communications plan is invaluable. It directs so much about your business.

Your physical brand

There is also the more tangible side to your brand that may need attention too, and that’s the physical parts of it. Think logos, promotional work, brand colours, your office or shop or van.

Critically, if you’ve done the brand thinking right you can guide the physical brand with a look and feel that fits (see the previous article on what you need to be thinking about here).

Logos and Colour

How do you know if your logo needs attention? This is a tricky question to answer as every business is so different.

Logos can develop over time. The degree of change is probably down to what you started with in the first place, or what direction the brand might be moving in.

For instance, you may have started your business on a shoestring budget, or without much thought to the logo or brand direction. It can often be the case that businesses find themselves looking at a logo that needs to ‘grow up’, rectify some cheap, basic design or reflect a better brand direction. Some fundamental re-working might be required.

It’s also the case that some businesses take a more subtle and progressive journey with their logo, moving it on bit by bit, keeping it fresh and working within new environments (think how mobile phones have affected logo visibility, and how the small square social media icon can dictate if a logo works in all environments).

Google is a good example of progressive logo development over time.


The same debates can be said on colour. Colour in itself can say so much about a brand. Brands will become heavily associated with colour, and so more radical changes in brand direction or signals of change can be achieved by colour changes. Subtle progression of different, fresher tones can keep things contemporary too.

Web Design and Promotion

A new website can bring massive benefits from a technology perspective. It is also an opportunity to improve the look, feel and messaging of your brand. The time you have spent thinking about your brand, its values and core messages can feed directly into promotional work to invigorate your brand. It’s a real opportunity to assess what you say and how you attract customers, and improve it.

Think new wording. New headlines. New photography. New typefaces. A new ‘About Us’ page. These can all make a huge difference. It also proves the brand cares about itself, which says to customers ‘they’ll care about me’.

Vans, reception, offices and retail spaces

A new sign, a new van or a major office or shop refit can re-launch a brand to great effect. It’s a chance to communicate and say something about your brand, as well as doing the job of reminding people you exist (the named Virgin Media vans and Stobart lorries are a great example of going beyond a logo and showing some of your brand personality).

Got an office? Think about the first impression your reception makes? No pictures. Tatty chair. Boring chair. Fading coloured paint. No work on the walls, no client logos, pictures or screen to show imagery and messaging? You’ll need to go back to your brand plan and the perceptions you want to illicit and get the reception to match. It’s the same for retail experiences (as that’s what they should be, an experience).

These are just few examples of your physical brand and identity that can make a huge impact on the perceptions held about your business. Each may be small, but when brought together they create a visual story about your brand that you need to guide appropriately.


The Pitch Final: What Went Down

The Pitch is a UK wide small business competition that provides a platform for buzzing entrepreneurs and switched-on businessmen and women to pitch their ideas to a large audience and a panel of expert judges. The competition runs throughout the year with contestants taking part in road shows, bootcamps and the final.

The Pitch is all about supporting and advising new businesses and entrepreneurs as they get up and running and this year, Creare were thrilled to be sponsoring the competition. We’ve written some cool content, taken our Digital Health Check on the road to some brilliant events all around the UK and met hundreds of inspiring entrepreneurs who have ideas that I really wish I’d thought of!

Our Digital Health Check working its magic at The Pitch 15 final

The Pitch 2015 came to a head last week with the final that was held at the ultra-stylish Paintworks venue in Bristol. So, what happened? Who was the best pitcher? What did Creare do to help and most importantly, who won?! Here are some of my personal highlights…

The Fiesty Mentor

Ever wondered how you go from a quiet person with a great idea to a confident person with a solid business pitch? Well for many people, Annette Kramer is the answer. Annette is a successful performance coach and business development professional with over 20 years experience across the globe and she definitely put her expertise into practice with The Pitch finalists!

The opening session of the day involved Annette asking for pitching volunteers from the audience to go up on stage and do their pitch. She then gave them pointers and techniques to use that improved their performance. One of these techniques included telling Nick from KitShare to take a magazine and hit a chair as hard as he could ten times before pitching. You may think this sounds a little crazy, but it worked! Nick’s confidence, passion and enthusiasm hit the roof following this odd activity and it got me thinking about situations where I may be able to get away with such behaviour around the office…

The Inspiring Pitches

Getting up to do a presentation in front of people you know from work is one thing, but presenting in front of 300 people you’ve never met before and pitching your passion to them is undeniably tough. Firstly, to all of you pitchers who are reading this and did that so honourably last Thursday – well done! Many of you have spent years of hard work, determination and pure grit to get to where you are and you are inspirational to us all.

The pitches at the final covered such a wide range of businesses from Tamara’s Helper Bees, the safe and confidential service that provides help to new mothers with everything from cleaning, cooking to ironing and shopping, to Hire An Artist a business founded by Gareth Cravens that connects users with artists who can produced top spec artwork for them. We were also treated to pitches from the likes of Tea Guice, the company that makes green tea so tasty, Choosic, the music discovery app that brings you personalised music recommendations and fast playlist building and LawyerFair, the service that compares lawyers and costs for your businesses completely free of charge!

Tea Guice
@teaguice in action!

The Team Spirit

The biggest thing that struck me at The Pitch Final 2015 was the fact that everyone was spurring each other on. Ultimately, there could only be one winner, but all the pitchers wanted each other to do well. From giving advice on pitches, to last minute partner practises before hitting the stage to loud cheering and pats-on-the-back after making it through your turn, the finalists were working as a team to help each person better themselves. The sense of community was evident.

The Winner

There were many worthy winners at the final but as with all competitions, there can only be one true champion. And so, at 5.30pm on Thursday 12th November, Resolver were crowned the winners of The Pitch 2015. Founder and CEO James Walker has built a company that guides people through the customer complaints process. With some big partnerships in the pipeline, James and his team have built an incredibly useful and sustainable platform that takes the frustration out of the complaints process for a consumer but it also helps businesses manage the complaints they receives. It works both ways for both parties. Watch Resolvers Brand Manager, Matt Rigby’s initial reaction after winning here. A huge well done to the Resolver team, we’re excited to see how your business unfolds!

@resolvercouk claiming their winning trophy

Well done once again to all of The Pitch 2015 contestants, it’s been a privilege to walk through the last 12 months with you. Remember that we’re still writing content to help you develop your digital marketing strategy and if you didn’t get chance to run through your Digital Health Check with us at one of the live events, you can take it here and then we’d love to chat about it.

Tips to Improve Your Brand – Part 1

If branding is about steering a collectively held positive perception, what do you need to think about to steer your brand on the right course?

It’s time to get planning, thinking and looking objectively and creatively at your business!

Back to basics first

Get some of the basics clear. Who are you targeting, what do your customers need, what do they think, what’s on their agenda, what worries or delights them. Then take stock of your competitors. Have a good look. What are they doing well? What are they saying about themselves?

This sets a backdrop by which you can make decisions about the heart of your brand and the fit it has with your customers. For instance, your customers could be tech or gadget mad. They love the latest thing. Or they could be massively into design and their home appearance. Aesthetic is everything.

Your brand

These are some of the areas to consider to ensure you know what sits at the heart of your business and brand:

Beliefs: What you feel strongly about matters, so beliefs are a lynchpin of any brand. They’ll direct the way things are done.

Example: Take Dyson, they work relentlessly to innovate and bring the next great product – they (or should I say Sir James?) believe you’re only as good as you’re last product.

His people, ethos, ways or working, adverts and products all ooze ‘innovation and invention’ in support of that belief. Just see what his foundation gives back all in the name of those two important words: innovation and invention.

The result? People are persuaded to buy Dyson because (they believe) they’re getting a product that’s at the top of the innovation tree and are willing to pay for it.

Personality and behaviours

How your business behaves and acts influences all sorts of business decisions. How you pick up the phone, how you write, even what you put on the company van are all examples of how your brand behaviours can be directive.

On a very simple level a relaxed brand answers the phone with ‘Hello’, while a more formal and serious business might want to start with ‘Good afternoon’.

Examples: Going back to Dyson, they keep the focus on the product – it’s the be all and end all. Their personality is all about being exceedingly clever and inventive in a way that’s grounded in real life insight.

It’s why you feel safe buying their brand, because they’re so clever.

With that ‘clever inventive’ personality trait as direction, it makes decisions about what to put on packaging easy: Dyson make the point that they patent everything they do because it’s so advanced. It’s never been done, and so they can’t be copied.


It’s why you get directional balls that go round corners easily, and unique looking fans with no finger slicing blades.

Outside views help

Hopefully you can see why some of the basic questions around your customers are so vital to help you judge how to steer your brand thinking. You can also hopefully start to see how these branding decisions drive so much of your marketing activity and decision-making.

This scratches the surface, and more detailed thinking and planning can be hard. Being your own judge with an ability to push your brand into new, stronger directions is difficult. Objective expertise can really help get the right result (and save on your thinking time too). The rewards of that thinking time are massive, so get thinking, get help if you need it.





How to Encourage Comments on Your WordPress Blog

Writing, managing and maintaining a well-read blog could be one of your biggest and best business assets. But how do you get that engagement? How do you create a conversation with your audience and woo them into giving you their thoughts, opinions and experiences?

We’ve put together 5 simple steps that you can easily put into action in order to get those comments flowing on your posts. Take a look and see what you think. I’d love to hear your views…

Branding is for big business: dispelling the myth

Think brands or branding and you can be tempted to categorise this as a big business issue…

Forget size

Every business relies on being seen, attracting attention, a solid reputation and delivering something their customers’ want, come back for or talk about with others. Every business needs to think about and execute a good brand plan, large or small, local or global.

Forget the jargon

Perhaps branding suffers from ‘daft marketing jargon syndrome’. It certainly sounds fancy, and more akin to big business. Forget the jargon if you like, this is about insightful business planning more than anything. People buy into a business and people they like. They buy into brands and take comfort in purchasing something that has a collectively held positive view. Be it a business service, shop or retail product.

Brands provide safety. Customers keep coming back for more if it fits their needs and outlook. Brands provide safety when making choices, and we choose between smaller business brands every day

Those customers will recommend your business, or even make you an automatic choice if you keep delivering what they bought into. Regardless of size, all the things mentioned in the previous post about ‘what a brand is’ stay true.

Smaller business examples

Let’s think about smaller businesses that aren’t known household brands for a minute. We all need to stand out. The best ones stand for something, and use the power of brand to achieve that stand out and get a collectively held positive view:

  • The farm shop that realises breeding/growing what they sell right there makes people confident in what they’re buying, it’s posh, aspirational and trendy. So the shop environment, packaging, logo, sausage and cheese selection and expert butcher to match all fit that exclusivity. You’re buying ‘exclusive quality’.
  • The small double-glazing business that emphasise traditional methods, craftsmen and an obsession with quality. They reject the idea of sub-contractors that fit the final product. You’re buying ‘quality craftsmanship’ throughout the process.
  • The architects that instil such a level of quality checking and precision that their house-building customers give them work to check from other architects. You’re buying ‘a safe pair of hands’.
  • The mobile coffee guy that specialises in home-made croissants of every variety and ice-cream and coffee worth stepping out of the office for. You’re buying ‘convenience and quality’.

Big/Small: You have a brand

A brand story, plan or reputation has to be earned and any business, whatever the size has to work at their brand constantly. Every business has competition. Every business needs to stand out. So if you have a business, you have a brand! John Hayward runs his own consultancy, Hayward Brands, providing brand and marketing consultancy for businesses in the UK. Never complicated, just cleverly done.


John Hayward runs his own consultancy, Hayward Brands, providing brand and marketing consultancy for businesses in the UK. Never complicated, just cleverly done.
5 Ways Content Could Be Killing Your Website

5 Ways Content Could Be Killing Your Website

“Marketers allocate 28% of their total marketing budget, on average, to content marketing – the same percentage as last year. The most effective allocate 42, and the most sophisticated/mature allocate 46%” says the Content Marketing Institute. If we didn’t before, now we know that a strong content strategy is key to success. So, let’s look at the five ways in which your current content could be killing your website and your brand. Continue reading

Email Marketing Image

Top 10 Habits of Successful Email Marketers

Are your email marketing campaigns generating the best possible return? Are you struggling to get your customers and prospects to engage with your content?

To help you think more strategically about your email campaigns, we have looked into the habits of successful email marketers in our Top 10 Guide:

Top 10 Habits Of Successful Email Marketers

In order to become a successful email marketer and implement our tips, you also need a great platform to work with. Here at at Creare we are proud to partner with email platform provider Constant Contact and to get you ahead of the game, we are offering all of our readers a 60 day free trial. Sign up here to get going with it!

QUIZ – Are You Navigating the Dynamic Digital Marketplace?

The digital marketplace is always evolving, making it a difficult landscape to navigate. As an agency, we know the process of setting out your marketing objectives and putting a plan into action can be daunting.  

Don’t know where to start? You’re not alone.

These questions have been designed to help you figure out where you are right now, how you can start to define those goals, and what you can do to help your business along in the right direction.

Creare Launches Digital Health Check Tool

Creare launches digital health check tool, helping SMEs to understand their digital presence and take action.

Today, Creare, one of the UK’s leading digital marketing agencies for small and medium businesses launched a brand new online tool for small and medium business at their Digital Demystified event in London; Creare’s Digital Health Check.

Creare believes that in order to flourish, our industry must remove the mystique of digital marketing and provide small and medium businesses with solutions that are simple to embrace and delivered with complete transparency.

For the first time, a tool of this kind has been designed specifically for the business owner or manager to use and take action on. Non techie, no jargon, simple yet comprehensive results detailing the performance of a business’ existing digital presence, with tips and advice on where to focus and how to improve, such as testing whether a business’ website is mobile friendly.

Creare’s Digital Health Check tool also features an innovative search marketing planning tool, helping the user discover the opportunity to embrace digital marketing. By simply inputting an industry type, location and market reach, the user is presented with the volume of searches, seasonal trends and an assessment of how competitive their market is. Creare’s Digital Health Check puts the power into the hands of the business owner.

Creare provides the Digital Health Check free for all to use, whether you are a Creare client, or any business looking to improve your online presence. The user will receive a free report detailing any recommendations on how to improve, plus information on how Creare can support them in achieving their ambitions online through our range of digital marketing solutions.

Tom Darnell, Creare’s Chief Commercial Officer said: “At Creare we have identified a clear need; demystifying the unnecessary complexity of digital marketing for the thousands of small and medium size businesses looking to build a fantastic online presence. Today we are excited to launch Creare’s new Digital Health Check and believe it is a game changer for SMEs, for the first time a tool of this kind has been specifically designed for the business owner, no jargon, clear recommendations, and what’s more, Creare’s Digital Health Check is available for any business to use for free, whether or not you are a Creare client.”

A media briefing pack on the Digital Health Check can be downloaded at www.creare.co.uk/media complete with further information, images and quotes.



Notes to Editor

About Creare

Creare provide a holistic digital marketing solution for small and medium sized businesses in the UK, including websites, ecommerce stores, search engine optimisation and pay per click search marketing, social media and video. Established in 2007, Creare has provided websites, ecommerce solutions, search marketing, social media and video solutions to over 4,000 businesses.


For further information, please contact:


Tom Darnell, Chief Commercial Officer, Creare

Tel:                           +44 7595 075724

Email:                     tom.darnell@creare.co.uk


Your Guide to Using Twitter for Effective Customer Service

It’s no surprise that social media is becoming a crucial, and often a primary, way for businesses to engage with their customers. It’s quick, easy and direct and when managed properly, can be a great asset for businesses.

There is no longer room to negotiate on whether or not businesses should be using social media, and particularly, whether they should be utilising it for customer service – it appears to be a given. A lack of “ownership and and understanding” of social media could “see brands fall behind in the overall customer service stakes” according to Forrester.

Research by Forrester and Conversocial found that although the number of customers using Twitter for customer service doubled to 22% between 2009 and 2012, users still rate the overall customer service experience via phone, websites, emails and IM/SMS rather than through social channels such as Twitter and Facebook, as a result of poor social media management.

The growing popularity and ubiquity of social media channels means that businesses have a great opportunity to respond to, and engage with, customers in real-time. It’s no longer acceptable to simply use social to listen to your customers – businesses need a strategy to ensure they’re keeping up with the customer service revolution and effectively using social media to drive satisfaction and loyalty.

So how can you use Twitter for effective customer service?

  1. Be alert

Social media is immediate and public: one bad experience left unmanaged can cause a ripple throughout the social space. Neglect social and you could be neglecting your brand.

To utilise your Twitter platform effectively, you will need to track and monitor mentions. It’s no good sitting around and waiting for the tweets to come to you. Instead, track the business name, relevant hashtags, and conversations that could help you engage with those customers who may not have directly tweeted you. Through keeping an active eye on what’s being said about you and your services or products, you can respond in a timely and efficient manner, which leads me on to the second key point…

  1. Don’t leave customers waiting

Research from The Social Habit highlighted that today’s connected consumers expects a swift response, with 42% expecting a response within 60 minutes and 32% expecting one within 30 minutes! However in reality, customers are often left waiting. Research by BDRC Continental found that some brands are keeping customers hanging on for up to 19 hours for a reply. Customers often turn to social media because the business has already failed to satisfy their needs, leaving them waiting will either see increased dissatisfaction or a lost customer. Managing your customer service effectively also means managing customer expectations – and they expect a speedy response!

  1. Take inspiration from the greats (and the not-so-greats)!

Social media triumphs and blunders are everywhere – a quick Google search will bring up a whole host of social successes and fails. Although it’s proof that even the giants of the business world can get it wrong, it’s a great chance to learn from their mistakes.

For example, Zara, came up against considerable online criticism towards the end of last year following a series of mistakes. First came the fashion blunder (a baby’s pyjama top that has been likened to clothes worn by Jewish concentration camp prisoners) and then came the awful example of customer service.

Instead of turning to Twitter in order to rectify the issue in a personalised and thoughtful way, they responded to each tweet with exactly the same response. On one hand this could ensure a timely response, but it that really all customers are looking for?

Ultimately, customers are looking for honest, helpful, and friendly engagement. Each tweet, whether good or bad, is an opportunity to develop a real relationship with the user, which could turn a complaint into custom or a customer into a brand advocate.

Customer service itself hasn’t changed – just the way in which it’s managed. Take to Twitter to listen to, understand and care for your customers and you’re well on the way to customer service success!