Reaching customers through social media has boosted the signal of large corporations and small start-ups alike.  Special deals, exclusive information and new product details are just some of the reasons that customers start following a business Facebook or Twitter page.  When you provide what they want, you gain more followers, and if you play it right, more sales.

But sometimes the tables are turned, and it’s not you who’s reaching out through social media – it’s the customer.  And they’re not always happy.  Managing a social media account comes with a great deal of power to connect with current and future customers.  The phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” applies here.  Since you’re opening your company up to a free-range forum where anyone can post, you’re going to get a mix of positive and negative responses – and it’s important to address both.

 

Be Aware of Who’s Watching

A successful social media marketing strategy includes instructions on how to respond when a customer either dishes on how well they were treated or disses the product or service.  Setting an example is a key part of the game.  So much consumer information is gleaned from reading about others’ experiences online.  Visitors to your social media account pages will be able to peruse your responses and from that determine whether they want to become or continue to be a customer.  They’ll judge you for how you treat others.  Remember that you’re being followed, and what you post as a brand on your social media pages can and will be held against you.

 

Speak as a Brand, Not an Individual

The keyword in the term “social media” is “social.”  In any social situation, it’s important to remember the rules of etiquette, including those you set for your brand.  Remember that when a social media manager responds to a comment, they should maintain a consistent voice and tone that gives an air of professionalism.  But even though you’re a brand, you can (and should) still show signs of human emotion, particularly empathy and compassion.  This makes your brand more relatable and customers will appreciate being treated like a person and not just a sale.

 

You Can’t Respond to Every Post

Especially if you have a lot of traffic coming through on your social media accounts, it’s impossible to respond to every post (unless you want to pay your social media manager double overtime).  A good rule of thumb is to respond when a question is asked, when someone has strongly stated an opinion (for better or worse) about your company, brought a mistake to your attention, or has a request for assistance.  Sometimes, it can be best to leave posts that are obviously meant to start a fight alone.  You can leave an apology and calmly state the facts, but know a troll when you see one and don’t feed it.

 

…But Respond as Often as Possible

Keeping your social media accounts active means responding as much as you can to relevant posts in a timely manner.  Posting a response within 24 hours will ensure you don’t keep your customers hanging.  Longer than that, and they may give up on the hope of getting a response at all and become discouraged from using the social media site again.  Social media is a conversation that nurtures the relationships you have with your customers, so keep the discussion going.

 

Don’t Forget to Follow Up

The initial response to a problem or complaint gets the ball rolling to finding the solution for your customer.  But like a phone or in-person exchange, it needs to be followed through.  A simple “we’re sorry” isn’t going to cut it when a customer has a defective product and can’t use it, or has lost their luggage and demands compensation.  The first thing to do is to resolve their issue, and hand out a peace offering like a discount for a future service.  Then let them know that you acknowledge your error and the company is taking steps to avoid the issue in the future.  The bottom line is to provide excellent customer service, regardless of the medium.  Many people become reactive on social media, but in a customer service context, it does your brand no good.  Remaining calm and giving the customer what they deserve is priority #1.

Posted by Agnes Jozwiak

Agnes is the Marketing Director at ClickMeeting.

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