How to Build Relationships With Your Customers Via Social Media
Like it or not, how your brand is perceived online influences buyer behavior. In a recent social media study by J.D. Power & Associates, 87 percent of satisfied customers said their online interaction with the company “positively impacted” their likelihood of purchase from that company.
To be effective, however, these social interactions need to be real, two-way conversations and not one-sided marketing messages “pushed” at followers and fans.
“In the social space, brands have an opportunity to build rich relationships with consumers and shoppers,” explains Ken Madden, executive vice president/head of digital for OgilvyAction North America. “But that comes with certain expectations of engagement. Brands need to put improving online consumer interaction through give-and-take conversation high on their list.”
Think of social media like a marriage: If you don’t communicate well, you’re probably going to have misunderstandings and your partner may eventually lose interest. The same applies to your customers — especially with people who are intentionally reaching out to you and offering feedback, suggestions, and praise.
Avoid Relationship-Building Pitfalls
Is there a disconnect between your brand and your customers? This could be the result of two things:
- Fear of negative feedback — A recent study by Maritz and Evolve24 found only 29 percent of complaints from customers on Twitter get replies from the companies in question. That means 71 percent are ignoring this feedback, perhaps for fear of how the conversations will go. Responding smartly can improve the way social consumers perceive your brand.
- Lack of resources — If your company doesn't have at least one employee who actively engages with your users through social media, you're missing a huge opportunity to gain valuable feedback, humanize your brand, and drive sales and conversions. If you find that your time is limited to efficiently manage your social profiles, you may want to consider hiring a community manager who can serve as the liaison between you and your customers online.
Actively Engage With People Online
It’s relatively easy to have conversations with your fans and followers, although it does require more than simply retweeting messages about your brand and liking other people’s comments on your Facebook posts. Here are a few ways you can forge relationships with your customers online.
- Answer questions and respond to feedback. Thank customers for sharing a blog post, their experience with a product, or their thoughts about your services. Respond to the good, the bad, and the ugly. If they comment on a blog post, respond. If they retweet your message, thank them personally. Use their first name to show them that you're paying attention. You will be surprised by how much of an impact these simple gestures make.
- Offer excellent customer service. According to a Zendesk study, 45 percent of consumers share bad customer service experiences on social media, whereas only 30 percent share good ones. Do you want your customers to share more of their good experiences or bad experiences with your brand? Make customer service a priority in order to ensure you're getting the best possible press.
- Involve people in doing social good. Consumers feel more connected to brands that advocate social responsibility. Start and share initiatives with your fans and followers, and thank them for their contributions via your social profiles. For example, in honor of the American Cancer Society's 100th birthday in May, Delta Air Lines donated $1 to the organization for each of the first 50,000 virtual luminarias lit by fans on its Facebook page. The company later posted a “thank you” message on its social profiles.
- Remember to have fun. Share happy and humorous memes. This is a great way to connect with your advocates and top influencers in your niche and to build awareness for your brand. For example, Starbucks posted the following tweet to its more than 3.8 million followers: “Smile at someone today.” The simple tweet garnered 6,669 retweets and received an obviously positive response with replies.
Christina Jones is a business writer for Intuit who is passionate about solving small business problems.