There’s an old saying in business, “The customer is always right.” We all know that isn’t necessarily true all the time, but one thing is: The customer may not always be right, but they are always engaged.
Social media has given customers all around the world the opportunity to share their voice, whether it’s to promote or complain. They are constantly connected—and we, as sales and marketing professionals, need to listen to the conversations. We have a phenomenal opportunity to speak directly to consumers as the conversations are happening.
Whether the conversations are positive or negative, they’re happening whether you’re there or not. Their experiences are becoming a part of your brand’s story—online, and accessible by the rest of your customer base.
We know of the horror stories of social media listening gone wrong, when customers complain and brands respond poorly (or not at all); when hashtags getting hijacked because they weren’t thought through. These are all real possibilities, but the positive responses outnumber those negatives by multiples.
When marketers are crafting their brand’s story, there are a few things to keep in mind—specifically the 4 E’s dedicated to building customer relations.
Social media gives everyone a powerful platform to talk from. But who are the most important to your brand? You will need to identify your target audience before jumping in. What are they searching for? What are they talking about? Who is doing most of the talking? Where are they talking at? If you have already identified your target audience, review it. Your brand is ever evolving—your customer base is, too.
Like an air traffic controller, you should be monitoring the conversations not only on your social networks, but on those of your competitors, too. There are great instances of companies swooping in, responding to the competition's customers, and creating new customers while also engaging with other big-name brands.
Engaging is the cornerstone of all social media. If you’re not engaging on social media, you’re doing it all wrong.
I’ve always said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” The same is true for your customers. When you engage with your customers, you are building brand loyalty and customer relations, while educating them at the same time. That’s a lot you accomplish with just one tweet or post! The easiest way to do this is by answering questions. Although obvious, it is one of the most effective ways to humanize your brand to customers.
As a marketer, it is important to remember that:
In times before social media, most businesses would not think twice about the last third. That is no longer the case. Ignoring any customer on social media can lead to disastrous results. Rather than ignoring any rude customer, or sending them an automated message, you should be excited to have the opportunity to educate! Take a potentially negative situation and turn it into a positive, whether it’s providing a direct number to customer service, offering discounts on services, or switching a customer from a service that isn’t working to one that is—all provide customer engagement opportunities that educate them and your other fans and followers.
After engaging and educating your followers, you need to keep them coming back for more. This is where creativity kicks in and you begin generating exciting content that continues the conversations. Whether that’s a infographic, bacon meme, special offer, contest, or the chance to engage in meaningful conversation—the more you keep them coming back, the more they’re seeing your company.
Expand your ideas of exciting your followers to also excite your employees. That’s right–get your employees to be a part of the conversation. You will be exciting them professionally and personally by empowering them to continue the conversation online. I know of businesses that have strict social media policies, and I think that’s a waste of energy. Your employees (just like your customers) are going to talk about you offline regardless—why not encourage positive conversations?
As you excite your customers (and employees), give them the power to become your brand ambassadors. They will sing your praises and stand up for you when unfair and negative criticism appears. Make great impressions with your most active ambassadors through engaging, educating, and exciting them and their word-of-mouth advertising, especially on social media, will go a long way for your business.
Jeffrey Hayzlett is a leading business expert, cited in Forbes, SUCCESS, Mashable, Marketing Week and Chief Executive, among many others. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffreyHayzlett
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