Giffgaff: Talking the talk in social

This post is provided by our partner Headstream, the social brand agency behind the Social Brands 100.

Mobile network Giffgaff, it could be argued, was born social.  It’s a fully independent network run in part by its community. Members are rewarded for contributing to customer service, product development and growing the community, receiving rewards in the form of airtime, cash or a charitable donation. Giffgaff was one of the top 5 brands in last year’s Social Brands 100, and number 1 amongst telecoms brands. We spoke to CRM Manager Claire Kavanagh about how social has moved on since then.

Q: What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in social over the last year?  Can you tell us a little about what you’re doing differently or have you found an approach that is working for you?

Customers’ expectations have changed dramatically over the past 12 months. A year ago it wasn’t always expected that a brand have a ‘social brand presence’, now it is just assumed that brands already have a presence at least on Twitter and Facebook.

Also consumers are getting more impatient. According to one survey, 25% expect an answer within 60 minutes and 6% within 10 minutes – which is difficult for most businesses as they don’t operate with 27/4 support.

At Giffgaff, as we’re built a bit differently so we’re able to cope with these changes as our members are providing support for other members. As we’ve grown, so have the number of Superusers that support other members within our Community, Twitter and Facebook. We’re often able to direct conversations back in to our Community where the information is often already available.

On the engagement side of things, it is difficult to keep peoples’ attention. With so much more going on across multiple channels, you need to offer something interesting in order for people to come back. 12 months ago it was more about getting your Fans and Follower numbers up – which was relatively easy by running one off competitions, offers, etc. Now brands are moving to social strategies that are more long term, providing a reason for someone to come back and visit your page or to talk positively about your brand.

Q: What do you see 2012 bringing in terms of social media, both for Giffgaff and the telecoms/mobile industry generally?

Another study said that for 15% of young people, social channels were their first point of contact – I think we’ll see this number increase this year certainly in terms of customer service via social channels.

Sites like Money Saving Expert, where information about the ‘best deals’ is so transparent, help people to get the best deals and an understanding of what is available. Also social is a massive driver of recommendations for Giffgaff.

For the telecoms/mobile industry, social will continue to help drive recommendation, there is a key challenge in making the user experience the same across multiple channels – consolidating information to create a personalised and coherent experience regardless of contact channel. For example, if I tweet, the business knows that @clairekav is the same person as @clairekav in the Community etc. In many respects it is what happened in the nineties when people began to expect that after speaking to a business on the phone or email, that there would be a record of that conversation when they later walked into the store.

Another change is increasing numbers of smartphone users. Over 1/3 of our site visits are made using mobile internet. This not only impacts the way we design and optimise our website for mobile but also impacts when we need to be available, as the time of day when members access information and interact with our brand varies a lot more now.

Hot topics like “big data” will help facilitate this push around customer service. More information can be accessed at a much faster rate – being able to improve the overall customer experience represents some really exciting changes, certainly within the telco industry.

Q: What, for you, is a social brand?

It used to be any business that had a branded “Fan Page” in Facebook. I think last year I said it was about a brand listening and having conversations with their customers – that’s still true – brands who listen and have conversations with their customers in areas they don’t own are social brands.

Q: What value do you see in the Social Brands 100?  Has it been of any use to you over the last year?

The shortlist of 100 highlighted brands that were doing something really interesting in the social space. It’ll be great to see this year’s top 100, as to excel you’ll need to be present, engaging and providing real value across multiple channels.

It is a list of great brands that are doing things differently, providing a benchmark for other businesses to see some ‘best practices’ and hopefully inspire them.