'Social Media'

It's not a soap box, it's a dinner table: Engaging customers on social media

6 JAN 2016 0

Social media can be a powerful tool, but like any other tool you need to know how to use it unless you want to end up slicing your hand off. Too many businesses make the mistake of treating their social media platform as exactly that – a platform. A lofty place to stand and shout down missives to the masses while remaining securely out of reach themselves. There's nothing social about that.

No, if you want your social media presence to actually mean something, you need to learn to engage. Don't use social media only as a place to broadcast, use it to hold conversations with your customers. Use it as a way for you to better understand your customers, their needs, and what you need to do to meet them, and for your customers to understand and build a rapport with your business. 

Not every enterprise is going to be big enough to hire its own social media strategist. But with a few guidelines and some carefully set standards, you can make even a minor social media presence worth its weight in gold.

Take the time to respond

While it might be impossible to respond to every single comment or mention of your business on Twitter or Facebook, it's important that you make an effort to respond to as many as you can. Whether it is a simple "thanks!” or "you're welcome!” your customers will appreciate the added human touch. This is the kind of thing that builds loyalty. 

When a customer has something negative to say or a complaint to register, it's all the more important to address it head on. While it might be tempting to write someone off as a complainer or an internet crank (and you'll run into them sooner or later) not responding to a customers, very public, problem can be a poison pill for your business. There are no shortage of horror stories out there of companies choosing to ignore a situation only for it to go viral and do massive damage to their reputation. A good way to handle it might be to ask the unhappy customer for a private point of contact such as an email or phone number. That way you can be seen publicly dealing with the issue, but you can work out the details with the customer in private.

If your business if creating a lot of chatter and it is getting hard to keep up with, you can always look at a third-party social media management solution such as Hootsuite and similar services. These services can provide you with easy to use tools to help shift through messages, keep an ear to the ground for what people are saying about your brand, and reply efficiently to questions and comments. 

Focus less on quantity, and more on quality

Don't chase a follower count, chase a following. Too many businesses over-prioritize a huge follower count above anything else in their social media strategy. The logic is as simple as it is flawed - a bigger following means a bigger audience which means a greater percentage chance of converting advertisements into sales. But that's not how it works. Shouting to 100,000 people who are completely uninterested in your product, have no use for your service, and couldn't possibly care about what you have to offer is as useless as shouting to nobody.  

You want to reach the right people. People who are interested in what you do. Put your best foot forward, be clear about what your business offers and what makes you better than the competition. Do your best to reach out, and eventually you'll find your following.

Any kind of "follow us and we'll follow back,” account selling, or other manufactured attempt to inflate your follower count not only looks desperate, it's ineffective. You don't want to sell yourself to bots and marketing accounts, you want to sell yourself to humans. Don't look for shortcuts, be patient and grow your social media presence through engagement and long-term planning.

Don't beat the same drum all day

When you're looking to get the word out about your business or product, it can be tempting to promote it constantly on social media. It costs nothing, reaches ears, and is easy to do. It's also annoying if you do it too much. There is such a thing as too much promotion. If you're belting out more than one or two sales pitches a day, chances are people are going to get sick of hearing from you fast and reach for that "unfollow” button. 

Use a gentle touch when posting on your social media accounts. One or two well delivered appeals will do more for you than a ham-fisted barrage of posts.

Another way of looking at this is "keep your broadcasts low and your engagement high.” You want to save your big sales pitches and calls to action for when you really need them. In the meantime, you can keep up a conversation with your core audience and continue to build on that rapport. This isn't just spinning your wheels maintenance either, remember, the best kind of advertisement is still word of mouth. When you establish a rapport with a customer, you're making the first steps to building a rapport with their friends and family too. 

Hey, have fun with it

Don't be afraid to have fun with your social media! Obviously you want to be professional and respectable in every public facing aspect of your business, but that doesn't mean you have to act like a robot. People respond to humour and creativity, so feel free to loosen your collar a bit. Find fun was to get your message out, be creative with what you are doing. If you want people to be interested in what you're saying, make sure you are interesting! Be someone you'd want to talk to.

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