Alexander de Ruiter: effective and successful with social media

Listening, entering into a dialogue, producing own content, and here it comes: earning and saving via social media. More specifically this last phase, that of Jedi Master, is still a bridge too far for some organisations. OBI4wan leads by example. Practise what you preach, says joint founder Alexander de Ruiter to his own employees.

Supplier of a user-friendly comprehensive solution for social media monitoring, webcare and social analytics specifies the website. With more than 650 customers, OBI4wan is a leading player in the Dutch market. A market which quite noticeably is dominated by Dutch suppliers.  “Might it be the VOC mentality?” Alexander de Ruiter gives me a piercing look, his eyebrows raised. “The Dutch are explorers. We have a headstart in new developments and technologies. Compared to foreign solutions our products have more functionalities. And we offer value for money: Dutch prices for solutions are better than foreign prices. Feel free to check.”

Webcare, he can talk about it for hours. Gladly even. He remembers the discussions at companies about what to do with all those messages on social media.

“Most organisations did not even know they were being mentioned on Twitter. Until they searched by hash tag or company name. Suddenly, the complaints and opinions of consumers appeared. What to do? Was this a job for the marketing division, or more for the customer service organisation?  Because the communication was expressed publicly marketing took ownership. Whereas fundamentally, it is all about service. But marketeers and PR managers were usually themselves already active on social media, so they went to work with it. At times this resulted in tension. The top 500 organisations in the Netherlands no longer discuss it.  Agreements about the tone of voice have been determined and webcare has become the responsibility of customer service. And if things were to get out of hand, PR has a say.”

Does this mean that webcare has become a fully-fledged service channel?

“Absolutely. With comments such as ‘we’ll just do those 20 tweets and 45 Facebook messages as well quickly’ some organisations do not give social media the credit it deserves. Only to experience later that this is not the way to go; they lack the overview. Social media have grown up and new networks are still developing. The channels are taken seriously, major organisations in particular have been doing that for a long time. Now SMEs are also acknowledging the added value. The volumes might be smaller, but smaller companies also realised that communication through social media is important for their reputation.”

Meanwhile Twitter’s popularity is less and Instagram and Pinterest are on the up. Which other developments do you detect in the field of social media monitoring and webcare?

“The Twitter volume is indeed less, but the relevance of the tweets is increasing. To the level of telephony. Twitter is used much less for sharing statuses such as ‘Good morning everyone. I am awake.’ We talk about ourselves less and less: the use of ‘I’ is a lot less. On the other hand, we do share more newsworthy information. Pinterest and Instagram are growing and Facebook offers more and more targeted, commercial offers. On top of this, new channels, such as blogs, forums and news sites, are being created all the time. More specifically the number of independent review sites is constantly increasing, both general and for specific target groups such as doctors or special fields. These sites generate a lot of traffic, because companies want their customers to put their positive reviews on these sites. And messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Messenger are hot service channels.”

How do you respond to these developments?

“Customers want to efficiently respond to all online expressions from one cockpit and with a higher productivity, regardless of the platform they are posted on. This implies that we need to integrate all these platforms in our all-in-one-system, in the one cockpit, for incoming and outgoing communication. This is our right to exist. The next step is total integration; this implies that the other customer details of the CRM package also need to be integrated. In fact, some customers already benefit from this. In this way we have already linked our system with Microsoft Dynamics and the AFAS platform.”

OBI4wan allows you to show how to effectively and successfully deal with social media. Show us how you do this.

“More and more, organisations are sharing valuable information, to be likeable. This is good, but it can be better. Our employees are our ambassadors and share business content through the private accounts. Our marketer shares blogs, tips or a customer case at different moments, via all accounts. We reach another type of follower by doing this, which is invaluable in view of the many clicks and likes. Our total reach grows constantly, as does our name recognition. In 1.5 years, the site visit quadrupled and more people are wanting an introduction. In addition we practise a nice form of webdare, a combination of incoming and outgoing communication which we also see at a number of our customers. Imagine that someone has let us know via social he/she wants to buy a refrigerator. As a webdare employee you approach this person and ask him/her which requirements the refrigerator must have. And service probably turns into sales. OBI4wan has been doing this for 3 years already, not under the organisation’s name, but our private accounts. This means there is no talk whatsoever of a usually negative commercial association.”

How can you prove that OBI4wan is able to keep pace with the speed of social media?

“Look at our product development. Based on our own vision, questions of customers of what the competition does, we produce new functionalities once every three weeks.  Compare that to a Siebel or a Salesforce!  Sometimes we are a precursor, like with the fully automated customer satisfaction module we added to the system. Other times we release at the same moment as the competition. It is not really that strange. After all, prospects talk to various parties in the market and ask the same questions. The time-to-market is short. And therefore your advantage vis-à-vis the competition as well.  We make the difference thanks to our total approach. Whatever the case, the system allows organisations to provide a proactive service to social customers. It really helps them.”

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