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7 Ways to Boost Customer Relationships over Social Media

Gone are the days when you can purely use social media as a megaphone to blast your message out to the masses. Foster real relationships with these 7 tips.There are a number of lazy habits that companies fall into over social media. Not least is the tendency to see social media as little more than a numbers game.

We’re constantly reminded of our follower or like counts on social, but the amount of followers you have just isn’t that important. It’s the positive engagement that you give and receive through social that really matters.

Look at it this way – which would you rather have? A small and heavily engaged band of raving fans? Or a large group of passive social followers who just aren’t emotionally “bought in” to your brand?

Social media is a great place to grow your audience and inspire loyalty. But in order to grow your following and have them hanging on your every word, you need to actively foster positive relationships. Without further ado, here are 7 ways in which you can boost customer relationships over social media.

1. Focus on One-to-One Connections

Customers who engage with companies over social spend 20-40% more with those companies than other customers (Source: Bain & Company)

It’s easy to think of social media as a megaphone, blasting your message out to the world. Sometimes, that aspect of social media is useful. But when organisations churn the same salesy “one-to-many” message over and over again, their followers quickly unfollow or switch off.

Make a habit of interacting with your most engaged followers to stay on their radar – even if it’s just through brief comments or liking their posts now and again. Use social listening tools to monitor all mentions of your brand (even where you aren’t tagged) and interact with those conversations. Keep an eye on influencers within your industry – engage with them and generally get to know them. Once you get to know some key people of influence in your niche, you could even provide them with something like a money-off voucher to show your gratitude. This may potentially get them talking about you to their audience.

Further Reading: Influencer Marketing: What Small Businesses Need to Know

2. Get to Know Your Followers

It’s easy to get lazy over social media; relying on regurgitated content, robotic scripted responses, and inauthentic engagement with influencers. In order to add true value to your followers’ lives, you need to establish what your audience wants from you through market research. Use polls and surveys to establish what truly matters to them from a company in your niche and mould your social media presence around their needs and tastes.

Whether you’re pointing followers to your latest blog post, responding to a disgruntled customer, or publicly congratulating a team member on a job well done – always write meaningfully and authentically. Create guidelines around a set social media “tone of voice” and share these rules with all team members who post to your social media platforms. This way you can remain professional and consistent, without relying on scripted, robotic platitudes.

3. Welcome All Feedback – Good and Bad

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool for customer feedback. Gone are the days when you can realistically expect your average customer to phone you and wait on hold, or indeed hunt down your customer services email address and fire off a complaint. They can share their opinion publicly and instantly over social.

Firstly, have a plan of action for when feedback comes in – positive or negative. This way, you’re not panicking over what to say and how to say it when the time comes. When someone leaves positive feedback, thank them genuinely and take the opportunity to ask them to leave you a positive review somewhere like Yell, Google, or Facebook.

However if someone shares negative feedback, listen to their issue carefully and show real empathy. If an issue is your company’s fault – take full responsibility and acknowledge their frustration. Sincerely apologise and directly state how you are going to put things right. When customers complain, there is a certain temptation to take the conversation away from public eyes. But unless you’re discussing personal details or a particularly heinous slip-up, there can be benefits to keeping these conversations in the public sphere. Discussing issues publicly shows your integrity and willingness to put things right.

Further Reading: Turning Negative Reviews into Positive Experiences

4. Respond Quickly and Directly

Twitter found in 2015 that fast replies have huge revenue-generating potential, so always respond to social mentions as quickly as possible – especially to complaints.

But speed isn’t all that consumers want, they want a direct solution too. An already frustrated customer looking for after-sales support is unlikely to respond well if they’re told to call or email off the back of a social media complaint – they want an answer there and then. Provide those who manage your social media accounts with the same resources as your customer services team so they can resolve issues directly without having to pass the issue around like a hot potato.

5. Be Appreciative & Open

Show real, authentic gratitude for positive interactions and respond in kind. If someone has shared a number of your posts with their audience, and they post content that’s relevant to your audience, return the favour and share their stuff too. When you are generous, show appreciation, and share value, you’ll stick in a follower’s mind. If their experience with you is good enough, followers and customers may even share their experience with others. It sounds corny, but an “attitude of gratitude” can go a long way.

Appreciation and honesty also play a part in dealing with negative feedback. It’s highly unprofessional to try to remove, censor, or otherwise quash posts from those who complain – unless they’re being spammy or unpleasant to other users of course. Accepting responsibility and responding consistently to all points of view is likely to paint you in a positive light.

6. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

This can be a little easier said than done but it’s important to try. Companies who are unprepared for negative comments can easily say the wrong thing and make a bad situation worse. Others may bury their heads in the sand until a bad situation turns downright nasty. Take a proactive approach to any threats on your horizon – use social listening tools to nip any unhappy murmurings in the bud before they become an issue.

However, social listening tools can also keep you aware of opportunities for positive interactions. Reach out to your most appreciative followers from time to time, even if it’s just a case of liking or replying to a post of theirs. Acknowledge your most engaged followers by publicly tagging and thanking them.

7. What’s In It for Them?

There is one unavoidable concept that flows through marketing psychology and that’s our natural habit of asking “what’s in this for me?”. Remember that your followers will be thinking “what’s in it for me?” with every post you share.

Provide links to useful content – industry-specific blog posts, infographics, videos, and interesting tips/factoids that may prove useful to your audience in their daily lives.

In order to do this meaningfully, you need to know your audience well. This is where market research comes in handy once more. Ask your customers directly what kinds of information would be most useful and impactful for them, and act on the results you find. Also inquire as to how they would prefer this information to be presented – through blogs, videos, infographics, etc. A good blend of content types helps to keep things interesting but should be backed up with real input from your followers.

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So how do you foster positive sentiment over social media? How do you deal with negative comments and reviews? How do you respond when someone compliments your brand over social? Please share your thoughts down in the comments!