By now, we’ve already established that social media as a whole is quite possibly the most powerful (and cheapest!) marketing tool you have at your disposal.
In fact, being on social media actually allows you to transcend the very simple and mechanical process of advertising your goods and services and getting your clients to buy from you instead of your competitors.
With social media, you’re actually forging a relationship with your followers: a much deeper connection founded on trust, respect, loyalty, and shared objectives and expectations.
Your followers will look at your brand and see that it’s far more than just a faceless, lifeless institution built with the intent of taking people’s hard-earned money; they’ll actually see that at the very heart of your brand is you, a human being who understands exactly what they need and can relate to your everyday problems as well.
Oddly enough, many seem to get lost in the shuffle, thanks in no small part to the convenience offered by the numerous social media tools that marketers use to curate content, schedule posts, and basically make implementing their social media strategy a lot easier.
You’d be surprised at how important engagement is in terms of keeping your brand profitable (you can take a look at this infographic to learn more interesting facts about engagement across social media platforms).
Simply put, they forget that they’re supposed to be Iron Man… and end up being the Terminator instead.
My point is this: your work in engaging with your audience does not begin and end with you setting up your page and posting your content. After all, there’s no reason for people to have conversations with you if you’re the type who doesn’t seem to communicate in the first place.
Sure, you may occasionally (and I seriously mean “not all the time”) strike gold with an article, infographic, or even just a status message or tweet that sparks conversation and eventually goes viral. However, if you don’t answer back, there is no exchange of ideas, and therefore no real bond created.
It is in creating a real bond with your fans that your brand can inspire loyalty and a solid following, which in turn would lead to more conversions and increased profitability at the end of it all. And of course, to create that bond, you need to put some work into the process.
1. Be prepared to handle negative feedback in a positive way
It’s normal to get complaints about your brand, services or products; it’s part and parcel of running a business. The added challenge here is that everyone will see what your dissatisfied customer has to say about you. As the old adage goes, you can’t please everyone.
However, what you CAN do is to make sure you don’t make them even more pissed off at you. The moment you get public complaints, address them immediately and discreetly — send the person a private message, do your best to deal with the issue offline, and present a personalized solution (or even better, a token or added benefit for the consumer to establish a resolution to the problem).
2. Remember that the process of conversation is a two-way street
Spoiler alert: Social media conversations, much like conversations in real life, require an exchange of ideas.
Now, I’m not saying that you should write a long composition as a response to every single comment that your followers post on your profile; however, it wouldn’t hurt to say “thank you” to them every once in a while, or to give them a nice shout-out to let them know that you’re aware they exist and, more importantly, that you care.
3. It’s all in the names you use
Our names shape our identities and give us the social right to believe that we’re all special in our own ways and that everyone can aspire to be something more than what they already are.
Having a name makes us human, in short. That’s why it’s highly recommended that you have your social media management team sign off with their first names after every update.
It works the other way around, too: Address fans who give their feedback to you using their first names, and they’ll go crazy over it. Remember to tag usernames on Twitter — that’s another great way to personalize your conversation.
4. Monitor the conversations and exchanges that are relevant to your brand.
This is where social media monitoring really shines. It’s your manager’s duty to keep a close eye on your social media feeds and see if people are talking about products or services that belong in your industry.
Then, when an opportunity presents itself for you to join the conversation naturally — perhaps give advice, suggestions or recommendations, answer a question, or provide clarity on an issue you’re a known expert on — things just happen from there.
5. Ask questions (and make them want to offer answers).
Additionally, it also takes you showing (in concrete ways) that you actually want to know the answers to your own problems by asking your fans for meaningful input. The objective here is to get them to communicate for you to establish that they can count on you.
Why not ask fans for feedback on previously released products and campaigns, for example? This helps you build a stronger relationship with your consumer, which allows your bond to flourish and your mutual trust to grow stronger.
I’m sure you’ve heard about brand storytelling already — how it defines who your brand is and why it’s worth following. Well, all the stories in the world would not do a lick of good to your brand if you don’t show your consumers that there are people behind that brand who are working hard to deliver the product they want, need, or deserve.
Don’t forget that your one-on-one engagement with your target market is something that you ought to pay more attention to. Learn the value of communicating clearly and consistently.
Liz Azyan is a digital consultant who helps public organisations and businesses add value to their products and services through smart digital solutions. She has been awarded the Google Fellowship Award for her work and initiative in the arena of technology, politics and social entrepreneurship. She has also been listed on several lists around the web as a top digital expert by her peers and industry leaders.