In this day and age, we all know it's a requirement for brands to be active on the social web. Monitoring and evaluating what's being said about the brand's name, products, campaigns, and competitors, and processing this data are all necessities. But many are missing a key element. It's not just about increasing your fan count or winning the number of posts game; it's about actually engaging with the social audience.
Consumers don't take to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to simply post their opinions. They are reaching out to ask questions and hoping for real conversations with the brands they loyally support. According to a 2012 Nielsen report, nearly half of all social media users engage in social care -- customer service via social media.
With social media becoming the most critical communication channel for consumers to express their opinions and have public discussions, companies must approach customer service on social media in a new way. The shift in social marketing is significant: The reign of one-way marketing is over.
If you have ever tried contacting a brand through its social channels, you know the shocked feeling you get from a personalized reply versus a canned response. You feel more connected to the brand, more loved and respected, and in turn, you may become more loyal. A study conducted by the Internet Advertising Bureau showed that 90 percent of all people would recommend the brands they have interacted with on social media. The benefit of social engagement is clear. So why aren't more brands following suit?
With large companies, there is often a high volume of social media mentions and messages, so it can seem overwhelming to engage with everything that's being said. It can also take a while to determine and train the team that will engage and respond. In many instances, companies are just waiting to learn from the early adopters of social engagement.
Fear not. Beginning to engage with your customers on social doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming. Here are some tips to successfully implement social engagement.
Figure out where you stand
First and foremost, find out what people are currently saying about your brand. Begin to monitor social channels to identify how consumers are already interacting (there are a variety of different tools to choose from when making your monitoring decisions). Are they complaining, raving, asking questions, or engaging with marketing campaigns?
Identify the right person for the job
Now that you know what people are saying, you can identify the appropriate internal person or department to handle the engagement. This person or department (customer service, marketing, public relations, etc.) should be the core of the social team and can be assigned to handle social posts.
Address both the direct and indirect
Don't just respond to direct Twitter handles and Facebook posts. Reply to fans who are discussing your brand -- good or bad -- and products at large. It demonstrates that you not only have a pulse on your social presence, but that you care and appreciate the dialogue. Take this example from Birchbox:
Keep it real
Consumers are used to engaging in real conversations (aka, phone calls) when talking to a brand's customer service department. When they ask questions or make comments via social media, they expect the same. When interacting with your social audience, be professional but normal. Use a light tone of voice, like the response below from AMC Theatres, and even humor when appropriate. Consumers appreciate the indication that a real person has actually responded to them, and it's not just an automatic response.
Today's social consumers can instantly post their opinion. Brands need to react and respond quickly to stay relevant. This is a sensitive topic, and most brands don't get it right. Social media closely resembles real-life conversations, and a couple of days can equal ages in the online world. Make sure you reply ASAP!
Folke Lemaitre is the founder and CEO at Engagor.
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