Social media has become an essential ingredient in the marketing mix. As new platforms rise and old ones evolve, it’s important to stay plugged into the ways users’ expectations and engagement patterns change with them.
The days of using social media as an ad-bombardment tool are long past. Today, customers want a one-to-one relationship with the brands they follow. They expect you to engage them on a human level, respond to their feedback and offer value beyond your latest promotion. In short, they expect a relationship.
They want their brands to be, well, more social.
If that makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone. This kind of in-the-moment customer engagement has its challenges. But if you can manage them, the rewards are worth it. So as you start to re-evaluate your social media plan for the new year, let’s start with how you approach the most daunting aspect of this very public relationship: customer feedback.
1. Use skilled representatives
Don’t assume that the young intern who understands Snapchat’s features better than anyone else on staff is also the best person to converse with your customers. No matter how immediate or loose things get on social media, your social responder is still representing your business.
Make sure the person handling feedback—even on Facebook or Twitter—is skilled in providing a positive customer experience. Social media is a public forum and your brand’s reputation is too valuable to trust with just anyone.
2. Respond quickly to the negative
In personal relationships, you have the option to let negative comments slide. Not so with customer relationships—especially on social media. Because it’s an open, public platform, you can’t control what customers say about you. But you can control how you respond to it—and that can go a long way toward mitigating any damage.
When it comes to negative feedback, time is of the essence. It’s best to respond as quickly as possible to avoid the appearance of indifference or fear. Make sure responses are personal, polite, and make a real attempt to resolve an issue—or at least adequately explain it. If necessary, ask the customer to message you continue the conversation in private. Calling the customer by name and engaging in real time can go a long way toward smoothing ruffled feathers—and letting other followers know that you care.
3. Amplify the positive
Here’s where the advantages of this very public platform come into play: social media is the new “word of mouth,” so make sure you spread it. When someone shares a positive customer experience, product review or other form of brand appreciation, share it, retweet or repost it elsewhere.
And be sure to show your appreciation to the follower for being an ambassador for your brand—perhaps with a special discount or giveaway. If you can’t afford that, a simple thank you will do. You’ll be surprised how far a little sincerity and attention can go.
4. Track and utilize feedback trends
Keeping customers satisfied is the name of the game—and for all its inherent risks, social media can actually make it easier. After all, why hire focus groups and send out surveys when you have a goldmine of customer feedback right in front of you?
Be sure to record and track the feedback you get on social media to identify trends, product preferences and areas for improvement. Then use the data to inform future inbound strategy, online content choices, SEO and more.
Looking for more ways to boost your brand with social media?
Editor’s note: this blog post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated to include additional information.