Your customers always have their smartphones handy, and if they are happy or unhappy with your company’s products, they might well express their feelings on Facebook or Twitter. If you haven’t explored social media for your business yet, it’s time to start.
Social media tools are among the most popular apps with smartphone users. In fact a 2013 survey from GlobalWebIndex found that, while Google Maps is still at the top of the pile, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are also in the top 10 most-used smartphone apps in the world. More than ever, businesses of any size need a social media strategy, because customers are just a click away from telling everyone about a good or bad customer service experience.
Companies sometimes feel unsure about using social media, and understandably so. There’s a fear that they may not know how to respond or control the situation if a customer starts criticising their service or their brand on public spaces like Twitter and Facebook.
The only sensible strategy, however, is to face that fear and embrace social media anyway. If your company doesn’t use social media, you’re effectively out of the loop, unable to influence or reply to what people are saying about your company. Research from Amas shows that 51% of Irish consumers talk about brands on social media; this means there’s a good chance your company will be discussed sooner or later.
How to get started on social media
My advice would always be to get an expert to help you get set up on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and boards.ie, and give you some advice on how to engage with customers. Then, it really is best if you manage these channels yourself: listening and responding when your brand is being discussed.
If you do detect criticism, you might be surprised how effective it is simply to reach out with an apology, and a promise to the person that your company is aware of the situation, and you’re endeavouring to do better. This kind of intrepid, direct contact can often de-escalate the situation, and remind the complainer that your company is made up of people, like you: you’re not just a faceless enterprise.
And don’t forget to say thank-you if you hear people praising your products or your service. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter are, of course, public arenas: saying a public “thank you” when a customer praises you will be seen by a lot more individuals than just the person you’re talking with, helping create a positive impression of you and your brand.
What if you hear criticism about your company?
Of course there’s no getting away from the fact that social media has its share of negativity. Make this a golden rule that you never break: do not get dragged into negative conversations. Remember what I said above about these being public arenas? Your conversation with a customer on social media should not be about defending yourself, even if you feel you are 100% in the right.
These public conversations are about letting customers know you hear them and that you care about what they’re saying. Getting into an argument with customers on social media, or listing reasons why the criticism is unjustified, can create a great deal of negative PR and must be avoided at all costs.
What useful strategies have you seen companies use when communicating with customers over social media?
Mike Creaven is managing director of Quantum Touch, maker of the Smart Appys app builder system.