Clueless how to interact with your consumers online? Here’s a tried and tested method to help you get started! This is part II of my blog series on “Building Connections on Social Media.”
In my last post, I talked about how brands are under-utilising social media by not building true connections with their consumers online. Earlier this month, Business Insiders also published an article stating how 90% of the consumers will recommend brands after social media interactions. So let’s address the million-dollar question: How should brands interact with their consumers online?
Surely, as I mentioned in my last post, it takes a lot time, effort and commitment to build a real relationship with your consumers.
However, there’s a sure-proof way to take the first step to interact with them online. It works every time and it works for everyone, whether you’re the owner of a start-up company, a social media marketer, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company.
And it’s simple. If you get it right, you’ll start establishing more genuine relationships with your consumers. All you got to do is to ask yourself this question:
“What would I do if I were standing face-to-face with my consumer?”
Imagine that your social media presence is like your brand’s front desk and you’re standing behind that counter. What would you do if your consumer was standing in front of you? How would you interact with that person? People want brands to be more social. Sociability requires human behavior, not just technology adoption.
Sounds simple enough? Let’s see how we can start applying it.
1. Paying attention to your consumers
Imagine: You go to the front desk of a new restaurant and you tell the service staff that you’ve enjoyed the food and their excellent service. You ask them how long they’ve been working at that place. Although the service staff heard you speaking to him, he didn’t bother to acknowledge your comment or reply your question. How would you feel?
Likewise, many corporate social media users don’t pay attention to their consumers’ comments or questions on social media. They don’t see a need to respond to them. While arguably not every single tweet or comment requires a lengthy response, it’s still polite to simply acknowledge them as a way of telling your consumers that you’re listening. You need to let your consumers know that they’re being heard, as though they’re standing face-to-face with you. It’s just basic manners.
If you need some inspiration, learn from Oreo and Kit Kat.
2. Responding to comments, queries or complaints
Imagine: You ask the frontline staff of a telecommunication company whether they’ve any promotions going on right now. He gives you an official enquiry form and asks you to state your name, date, and the questions. He says that the company will get back to your questions after they’ve received the form. How would you feel?
From a consumer’s perspective, it can be annoying when a brand always gives the standard reply on social media, “kindly email us at [email protected] if you have any feedback or questions.” When someone asks a question, he usually prefers a direct and immediate reply. He’s not interested in writing an email and waiting for three working days for your reply. As Jason pointed out, the average person today suffers from an extremely short attention span. If you want to capture your potential consumers’ attention and impress them, you need to be on the ball and make any process as simple as possible.
Simply saying “kindly email us…” is like telling your consumers that you can’t be bothered with what they are asking. It’ll also sound automated, as though the social media account is on auto-bot.
Many social media users would appreciate a yes or no reply. If it’s inconvenient to answer them on social media, at least address their questions and explain how it might be difficult to answer them on social media, and then invite them to email you.
Responding to them on social media is also an excellent way to start a meaningful conversation with them. Ask them why they feel that way. Ask them to give specific examples. Ask them how your brand can improve to serve them better. Build connections online just like in the real world, where a relationship is established when two parties actively engaged in a conversation.
Stop giving automated and template responses. Start addressing them personally and individually.
3. If you ask a question, acknowledge the answer
Imagine: You are having a dinner at an expensive restaurant. The chef walks up to your table and asks how you’ve found the food. But before you replied him, he walks away without saying anything. How would you feel?
One of social media best practices is to post questions to your audience. Posting questions is a great way to engage your fans. But how many brands pay attention to the answers and respond to them? Last year Expedia asked on their Facebook, “What is your favourite souvenir from your travels?” Over 200 people commented. However Expedia didn’t acknowledge any of the answers publicly. It’s just like asking someone a question in the real world and walking away before they can answer your questions.
Let’s consider: What if Expedia had shown interest in the responses and comments? By acknowledging their answers, Expedia could gain the opportunity to begin a conversation, express interest and learn more about their consumers in the process.
If you post a question, make sure you acknowledge them. Better still; use that as a conversation starter.
Let’s look at a real life example
As a Twitter power user, I love engaging with many people and brands online. I frequently post comments or questions to them on Twitter to find out more about them and understand them better. I get extremely turned off whenever they don’t reply me, or send me an automated response (I’m not sure which is worse), as though their accounts are on auto-bot.
On the other hand, like Jason, I feel appreciated when corporate Twitter users make an effort to reply, even if it’s not directed at them. Ninoff, or No I’m Not On Frickin Facebook, handles their Twitter account very well by being committed to answer all of my questions about their site.
In case you have not heard of them, Ninoff (pronounced Nin-off) is an alternative social network site that aims to simplify and concentrate on privacy, away from the clutter and claustrophobic feel that Facebook is offering. They are currently still in the beta stage and are hoping to launch soon.
I tweet-ed them questions some time back to understand more about what they are doing and they responded to every single one of them. Even though they repeatedly asked me to email them if I want to have a more detailed answer since there are obvious restrictions replying questions on Twitter, they never failed to answer any of my queries as best as they can.
Since then, I became very interested to know how they are progressing. I’ve also been telling many of my friends about their site and what they hope to accomplish.
In a nutshell
So if you ever wonder how to engage with your consumers on social media, ask yourself this question, “What would I do if I were standing face-to-face with my consumer?” It’s that simple.
How do you interact with your fans online? If you have a better way of doing it, share it with us so that we can learn from you as well.
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