This post is going to be the last in this series and we’re going to focus on using social media to engage your customers. If you haven’t read customer engagement strategies part 1, where we cover e-mail marketing and in-context messaging, or part 2, where we discuss how using new technology can improve the tried and true strategies of user groups and phone calls, then you might want to take a minute to do so.
For those of you who have accessed the Internet, or even read a newspaper at least once in the past few years, I’m sure you’ve heard of social media. If you work in sales or marketing, you probably know that you can use social media to generate new customers. However, how many of you use social media to fully engage your existing customers? Do you simply send them a friend request and then forget about them? Or are you using social media for full effect? The goal of this post is to share some ideas on how to leverage social media as a customer engagement tool. Specifically, we’ll cover:
- Overcoming your fear
- Developing a personality
- Engaging your customers
Overcoming your fear
When you see one of your customers update their status on Facebook, or share a blog article they wrote, or perform some other action on a social media site, do you comment? Or do you look the other way as any comment you make will be public? Are you afraid that commenting could have a lasting negative effect? This is the fear I'm referring to when it comes to engaging your customers on social media.
Most businesses out there are using some technology to monitor social media for mentions of their business name or products, to which they respond. This is a no-brainer in today’s social world (and if you’re not doing it, then I encourage you to start ASAP)! However, if that’s all you do, then you’re not really using social media for its intended purpose, which is relationship-building.
Think about it this way, if you’re at a cocktail party, and you hear someone make a funny joke, or an interesting comment, or even say something controversial, odds are you’ll get involved in the discussion and start to develop relationships with everyone else at the party. Now, if while doing that you saw someone standing to the side that only ever spoke up when someone mentioned their name, but was completely quiet otherwise and avoiding eye contact with people, what would you think of them? You’d probably think that cocktail parties really aren’t the right way for them to have fun and express themselves. Well, how do you think you look on social media if that’s all you do?
Now, imagine that instead of friends and acquaintances at a cocktail party, it’s a bunch of customers and account managers from several organizations. In the previous example, the account managers who engage their customers and tell jokes and respond to jokes and other comments are the ones who are developing relationships. Compare that to the account managers who just stand there and don’t do anything unless someone mentions their business name. In this scenario, which Account Managers are going to get upsells and upgrades, and retain an unhappy customer?
Social media is very similar in that it’s like a cocktail party. People are hanging out, sharing updates about their lives, showing photos, discussing interesting news and trends, and so on. So don’t be anti-social, engage the conversation instead! Just as at a cocktail party, the company that successfully engages their customers will increase retention, increase upgrades, and so on.
Now that you’re convinced you should join the conversation, what about the fear of saying the wrong thing? Or having an employee you empower to comment on your behalf say the wrong thing? Will this come back to haunt you? Honestly, unless you do something really boneheaded, like mention politics or religion, mention something clearly wrong (racist, sexist, etc.), share some company secret (like the big discount you gave to company X), and the like, you’ll be fine. Just use common sense when commenting on customer behavior and remember to be polite and avoid sensitive and taboo topics. Also, start small, with some simple “Great update” or “Funny story!” type comments, and as you get comfortable, start saying more.
And, just in case you need any more motivation, imagine your competitors doing this! Not only could it make it a lot harder for you to work your way into their customer base, it will make it a lot easier for them to worm their way into yours! So, don’t be caught off guard and stop being afraid to use social media as it should be.
Developing a personality
So what does developing a personality have to do with engaging customers via social media? Well, let’s continue the cocktail party example. Earlier we discussed how you have to join the conversation in order to fit in and develop relationships with your customers. Now let’s take a look at how you engage the conversation.
Imagine we’re back at the cocktail party where it’s a bunch of customers and account managers from various organizations getting to know each other. This time let's focus on two account managers – Amy and Jessica, and how they engage the customers.
When Amy hears a funny story or interesting comment, she heads over to the group and starts by saying something like “Wow, amazing story, I especially love how …” and comments on part of the story she likes. Then she listens to what others say about the story, sometimes responding to their comments. During a lull in the conversation, Amy then shows a video from her phone of the last company party where the interns put on a skit roasting the executive team. After everyone has a good laugh, Amy excuses herself and goes to another group of people and gets involved in their conversation.
Jessica, much like Amy, is not afraid to engage her customers. When she hears a funny story she heads over to the group and says “Nice story!” Jessica then stands there quietly as other people respond, sometimes saying “I Agree!” or “Interesting idea.” However, she never says more than that. During a lull in the conversation, Jessica just continues to stand there, waiting for someone else to say something. When they don’t, she moves over to another conversation and you can hear her say “I agree!” again, followed by “Very interesting point.”
In the two examples above, as a customer at the party, who do you want to talk to? The person who shows a genuine interest in what you have to say? Or the person who just pays lips service? The same is true for social media! Don’t be the company without any kind of personality, simply sharing blog articles and saying things like Jessica did above.
Be like Amy! Share interesting and funny things that happen around the office. Respond to what people say with meaningful comments and actually join the conversation! This will give your company a real personality online, making it easier to engage your customers and join the conversation!
Engaging your customers
By now, you should be convinced that you not only need to join the conversation, but you need to do so in a meaningful way. So, the next question is, how do you do this? Well, here are a few tips to help out:
- Find out where your customers hang out. Is it on Facebook, LinkedIn, both, or some other social media site? You can do this by looking at your web analytics – which social media sites send you the most leads and customers? If you’re unsure, then a general rule of thumb is if you’re B2C, use Facebook; if you’re B2B then LinkedIn.
- Add your customers to your network. You could do this by asking your account managers to find and friend their customers. Or you could use an email address book to identify customers. Lastly, you could do things to promote your social media profiles – add links in emails and throughout your site; have your customer-facing employees remind customers after a service call to join a social media network; run contests or promotions; and so on.
- Start posting. Remember, part of this is sharing things outside just posting your company blog articles. So add some photos taken around the office, or some stories from your company lore, or even just retweet and share really interesting content created by others.
- Actively engage customer feeds. Once your customers are in your network, watch what they say and proactively reach out and comment on what they do. Remember, don’t just wait for them to mention you, surprise them with a thoughtful comment or idea.
- Stick with it. Don’t just comment a few times and then stop. Make this part of your daily routine. Set aside a little time each day (15-30 minutes) where you’ll make it a priority to engage your customers through social media.
- DON’T BE SPAMMY. Nothing will turn people away faster that self-promotion. While it is OK to occasionally share product news and updates, if all you do is talk about yourself, people will stop listening.
If you follow those few simple pieces of advice above, you should be able to successfully engage your audience on social media!