As many organizations already know, social media can be a powerful customer relationship tool, driving traffic to your brand. It can also damage your brand when not used properly.
“Many brands have been severely damaged by not respecting social media, either by engaging on an ad hoc basis or simply having the wrong team or individual [or strategy to] manage it,” says Mark Harrington, vice president of marketing at Clutch, a customer loyalty program provider.
So how can your brand successfully leverage social media? Here are seven proven customer engagement strategies for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
1. Use social media to answer customer questions and solve problems. “You can improve your customer relations [by regularly monitoring Facebook and Twitter and] answering customer questions, replying, as they come [up],” says Avi Levine, the executive director of the Digital Professional Institute, a digital skills training school based in Chicago. “This gives you the opportunity to connect with customers as they are experiencing problems, have questions or just want to share feedback.” Moreover, by posting answers to questions on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, “they will then be available for anyone to read.”
“Because we are a parking company, when our customers have issues, they need help right away,” says Megan Bubley, customer hero at SpotHero, an on-demand parking app. “Twitter is immensely helpful because it enables us to interact with our customers in real time. When issues arise, customers can tweet at our Twitter handle to receive immediate support,” she says, which often leads to positive comments (and feelings) about the company.
“We noticed that two siblings were having a conversation on one of our Instagram photos, saying they wanted to purchase a watch for their dad, but just couldn’t afford it,” says Esti Chazanow, cofounder and brand manager, LIV - Swiss Watches. “We piped in saying we would pitch in by offering a coupon code. Their response: ‘Wow now that is impressive @livwatches awesome customer awareness and service!!!’”
“We have a customer in the home goods space who proactively listens for people tweeting about problems with competitor products, then offers to help them fix the problems they’re having with competitor products,” says Jordan Enright-Schulz, a product marketing manager for Adobe Social. “Unsurprisingly, this outreach has resulted in high rates of new customer conversion.”
2. Use social media to keep customers informed/alert them to problems or promotions. Use social media to “be proactive,” says Davina Kristi Brewer, consultant, 3Hats Communications. “When something’s going on, get out in front [of it]. If your website is down, let people know via social that you’re aware of the problem, that you’re working on it [and] when you expect it to be corrected,” she advises. “The when the website is back, [let people know that] you’ll honor whatever sales or promotions [they] might have missed as a result of the glitch.”
Another way companies can make a positive impression on customers is to use social media to advertise sales or promotions – and provide discount codes to their social media followers.
“We connect with our current customer base by offering our newsletter subscribers exclusive JUST4ME discounts,” says Claudia Montez, founder of Isabelle Grace Jewelry. “Every week, we put one of our pieces on a special JUST4ME discount and advertise it in our newsletter and to our social media followers,” she says. “Not only has this resulted in new purchases from existing customers, but it has also helped us really grow our social media and newsletter following!”
3. Use social media to turn a neutral or negative experience into a positive one. “From a customer service point of view, it is important to acknowledge each and every customer's point of view [or comment], even if we disagree with it,” says Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner, Happy Marketer. “On social media, if a brand publicly acknowledges someone, half the battle is already won since every customer rightfully demands your attention.”
“If a customer tweets something nasty about your company, view it as an opportunity rather than an insult,” says Gina Broom, marketing assistant, Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal. “Let them know you're sorry they've had this experience, and ask how you can help them have a better one,” she advises. “This will douse the fire, demonstrate that you care about quality experiences for customers and potentially even save your relationship with an existing customer.”