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How Social Media Is Both A Tool And A Member Of The Team

How Social Media Is Both A Tool And A Member Of The Team

The best social media strategies don’t simply offer an additional channel for customers -- they provide an opportunity to deepen the relationship. When customers see such tools as an extension of the team, that’s guaranteed to happen.

At the top of their home page, or sometimes at the bottom, many companies will often list social media icons linking to their presence on services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. It’s usually on an entirely different area, however — like an “About Us” page, for example — that the company will list the names and images of its key team members.

This disconnect may not be intentional, and it may not seem significant, but the reality is that many customers will wind up dealing directly with those social media accounts far more often than the individuals on those “About Us” pages. And yet social media accounts are often positioned more like contact information than as entities responding, proactively communication and basically building relationships with your target audience.

It may not help matters that, for the most part, the social media channels a business uses are almost always represented by the company logo. This increases a sense that, when they reach out through those channels with a question or problem, customers are dealing with a faceless group of employees, rather than an individual team member who actually cares about helping them.

Doesn’t this fly in the face of what social media is supposed to be all about? Rather than replicating the kind of personal touch that many small businesses often make when a customer physically enters a store or office, social media channels become the virtual equivalent of a waiting room, or a place where they have read between the lines of an “official response” from a company.

What if we reimagined the way social media is used in customer service — where such channels almost have as unique a personality and an approach as a particular employee a customer might encounter on the phone or in person?

It’s not only possible to do this, it’s essential if you want to make the most of social media to improve customer satisfaction, reduce customer churn and create a reputation that builds your following. Here’s how to start:

Consider dedicated social support and success routes

Customers are savvy enough to know by now that many companies see social media as a major tool in their marketing strategy. They may follow your account initially in order to keep up with new product features or promotions, but when they have a service issue, they need to feel like a top priority. That’s why they might get angry if, while waiting for a response on social media, they continue to see marketing-related posts that have been scheduled in advance.

Some companies have addressed this issue by creating entirely different accounts customers can use when they have a question or complaint. These might be labelled as “@XYZCorpSupport,” for instance, while others might focus on helping onboard customers soon after a purchase, which might be named “@XYZCorpSuccess.”

Although this may seem too onerous for companies that already find it challenging to keep up social media activity, remember that technology can help automate the remediation of common problems and escalate bigger issues to the most appropriate employees. Another option is to make customers aware of a particular hashtag, like “#HelpMeXYZCorp” that your service team will monitor and jump on more rapidly.

Monitor more than your brand name

Lots of companies have made sure they use social listening tools to keep track of what customers are saying about them online, but sometimes this is limited to their official moniker. In a natural, real-world conversation, however, people are as likely to talk about a particular product, or even a category of products where they’re experiencing some confusion or frustration.

Think about extending your use of such tools so that you can jump in with advice or assistance even before someone reaches out directly on social media. This should become kind of like what sometimes happens in the physical world, when a customer looks lost or even angry while wandering the aisles of a store and a well-trained staff person takes the initiative to approach them and check in on what’s wrong.

Show empathy through language and tone

Companies might be understandably wary of using too much humour or sarcasm on social media, especially in service and support situations. What customers want, however, is a sense that there is some humanity behind the accounts with which they’re conversing.

Pay attention to the words they use and how they’re using them. Reflect back what you’re seeing. If they’re really angry, for instance, preface your response by noting you recognize that anger and that it represents the urgency of their need. If they’re sarcastic or insulting, keep the response professional but honest — sometimes a little self-deprecating humour (“I guess we could do better than that, can’t we?”) can diffuse what can seem like a highly negative encounter on social media.

Above all, talk like a person on social media. That means you can use contractions, informal terminology and even friendly phrases like, “Hey, thanks for giving us a second chance!” after the problem has been resolved. If that feels off-brand, consider attributing the comments to a real team member. Many firms have their staff end posts on services like Twitter by including their initials, so you know there’s an actual person doing the “talking.”

Make them see it to believe it

While many social media services began primarily as text-driven tools, all of them now make it easy to share visual elements, including photos and videos. Think about how you can personalize service interactions by going beyond words.

Imagine responding to a customer question, for instance, with a live video where a team member walks them through exactly how to fix something. Or what about ending a service interaction with a team member giving the thumbs up, or holding up their hand for a high five?

Sure, this may seem cheesy at first, but the point is to make the most of these mediums, rather than treating them as a necessarily evil for customer service teams.

The best social media strategies don’t simply offer an additional channel for customers — they provide an opportunity to deepen the relationship. When customers see such tools as an extension of the team, that’s guaranteed to happen.

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