With an estimated 2.3 billion users worldwide, social media provides huge opportunities to grow your customer base and build powerful relationships. According to Time magazine, 81% of consumers would have more faith in a company if they use social media, and millennials (those born from the early 80s to early 2000s) will be more likely to listen to social media users when making a purchase decision than anything said by government, business, or religious institutions.
However, making effective use of your chosen social media platforms isn’t easy. In our Take 10 series we’ve already looked at how to get started on social media, and how to take advantage of Facebook advertising. Now we want to look at some simple tips on how to build engaging relationships with your customers while managing and protecting your reputation.
1. Speak naturally
No one wants to talk to a robot. Social media is about connecting with people and building relationships, so don’t be afraid to let your personality come across in your posts. Getting a stock reply can make people feel unvalued, whereas being personal will help build trust in you and your brand. Engage with people and talk to them directly by using ‘you’ and ‘your’, and make sure you keep the tone consistent if more than one of you are posting.
2. Replying is more important than talking
Any opportunity to speak directly with a customer is important, whether it’s on social media, email, phone, or on your website. The difference with social media is that your response is in the public domain, so you can quickly gain or lose fans depending on what you do.
If you hide away from replying to a complaint, people will speculate or get more frustrated. If you try to challenge them, it could escalate and get worse. Take comments seriously, show empathy and apologise. Even if it wasn’t your fault, say you’re sorry they’ve had a bad experience. Provide information if possible and ask for details so you can call or message them directly.
Think of it as any other customer service channel. If you take time to respond to people and give them a great experience, you’ll add to your reputation and customer loyalty. Remember to use their tag (@name on twitter, name on Facebook etc) so that your post then appears on their network. Then if they like or share your response, you get a free advert of your great service!
3. Turn everyday events into content
Creating content doesn’t have to be time consuming. Capturing everyday events is an easy way of adding content for your social channels, and can help promote your products to your customers.
When anything gets you excited, take a photo and share it. It could be some fresh stock in your store (It’s strawberry season and these have just arrived fresh from the farm!), a new van for your fleet (Meet Terry, the newest member of our crew), or hiring a new staff member (We have a new Pastry Wizard joining our kitchen today – say hello to Jenny!).
If you’re setting up a seasonal display, or have filled your warehouse with 10,000 boxes for your peak sales period, let people know. These ‘behind the scenes’ posts help customers get to know your business better, building on your relationship while promoting your product or service. Always remember to tag users and use hashtags to reach a wider audience.
4. Curate content, start discussions
You don’t have to come up with everything yourself. Sharing articles, news, and photos from other sources is a great way to add variety to your posts and bulk out your content.
Think about what your customers are interested in that relates to your business. If you’re a bakery maybe that’s pictures of superhero cakes on instagram. If you’re an IT company it could be an exciting new technology launch. You can then use those posts as the starting point of a discussion — ask for people to share some favourite cake examples of their own, or for opinions on the news article you’ve posted.
By adding content from elsewhere you avoid talking about yourself all the time and coming across as too salesy. Your followers will then get more value from your social channels, be more likely to engage with you, and be more likely to return.
Pampeano ran a competition asking their followers to post pictures of any Pampeano gifts they received at Christmas, getting customers to talk about their products and creating a buzz around their brand.
Remember, engaged customers will advertise your business for you
Whether you’re one man band or have an in-house marketing team, managing social media can seem too time consuming to be worth the hassle. However, with a little effort, social media can turn your customers into brand ambassadors, building stronger relationships with them and giving you free advertising all at the same time.