Social media has become a part of everyday life. Case in point: Eighty-one percent of people in the U.S. have a social networking profile, and the number of worldwide users is expected to reach 3.02 billion by 2021.
Apart from the growth in the number of profiles, consumers have been devoting more of their time to engaging with social media sites. One-seventh of the average user’s waking life is spent on social media.
Given the popularity of these platforms, brands have made it a priority to integrate social media channels into their customer service strategy, and strong social media customer engagement can be a powerful tool for boosting brand loyalty and growing market share.
However, the social media world never stands still. With the ever-changing landscape of social media, brands need to work harder than ever to maintain a positive customer experience, as 83 percent of people have higher digital customer service expectations than they did last year.
With consumers demanding more from social media communication, brands must offer efficient service and produce compelling and creative content to engage with their target audiences successfully.
The biggest mistakes brands have been making on social media all fall into one overarching category.
Not Creating an Authentic, Engaging Experience
In an attempt to generate awareness for their brand and products, companies can get too caught up in perfecting their social media messaging and come off as calculated. Sometimes brands try to use a cheeky or sarcastic tone on social media, which can be off-putting or alienating to followers. As a result, companies can miss the mark on authentically connecting with customers.
Here are some ways you can create a positive experience for your followers:
• Know your audience: Four in 10 consumers say they are unlikely to become emotionally attached to a brand without social media interaction, so it is important that customer engagement reflects the core values of your brand on social media.
Understand your audience and dive into the data about your followers so you can speak to your customers in a way that will resonate. With a strategy based on authenticity, community, and responsiveness, companies can make customers feel like they are more than just a number on a waiting list. Otherwise, it is all too easy to drown in the high volume of content on social media and fade out of your customers’ field of perception.
• Join the conversation: Social media is a two-way street. Make sure you connect with followers rather than just broadcast your message. Consumers, particularly millennials and members of Gen Z, are not shy about voicing their opinions about brands on social media.
Customers increasingly share their experiences with brands, regularly writing reviews about companies and their products. Given that conversations are already taking place about brands, companies need to embrace the chatter and get involved in the dialogue or they risk missing out on a huge opportunity to build a relationship with their audience.
• Build a community: To create a sense of community, it’s helpful to give consumers a response if they mention a company on social media, even if they are not expecting one. Brands also can engage with customers by creating conversation starters that ask people for their views on their latest products or to get involved with an event that might be taking place.
Another great way to engage with followers is to encourage people to share images, videos, or memories associated with their product or service. By sharing interesting stories and interacting with followers, companies can build a community of brand advocates that will inspire others and battle negative sentiment.
Create a Trusting Relationship
People are increasingly aware that misinformation is being spread through social media, and they are more cautious about what they read. Globally, people’s trust in social media is at just 41 percent. Sharing inaccurate information on social media can cause customer confidence in your brand to plummet. Here are some tips for winning the trust of your customers:
• Make it helpful: The battle for trust offers an opportunity for brands to become qualified experts in providing trustworthy information to consumers. Social media can be used to proactively share helpful hints and tips that deliver value for customers. Instead of strictly focusing on selling your products through social media, provide beneficial information, share solutions, and promote products that will make customers’ lives easier.
• Listen to conversations: Businesses can leverage social media listening tools to actively monitor and record discussions to build a relationship with customers and make sure they receive the information they need.
Companies then can use the resulting insights to reach out to followers proactively or create content tailored precisely to their preferences. Since consumers are more likely to engage with content that comes from a person rather than a company, businesses should enable their employees to act as ambassadors for their brand.
• Show you care: Customers like to feel valued, even after they have purchased a product or made use of a service. Consumers ultimately want to know that a brand cares about their opinions and views.
Though it can take a long time to build a relationship with customers via social media, it is worth it. While customers do not expect or desire for a company to know about every aspect of their lives, engaging directly with individual posts and creating a unique rapport with consumers on social media can go a long way.
If a brand knows a customer’s likes and dislikes — and displays that through their social media communications — that person will be more inclined to trust the brand’s recommendations.
• Use technology wisely: Technologies like artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, in many cases, can actually improve personal interactions between people and brands. Robots are a great resource for drowning out the noise in social media, processing simple requests automatically, and freeing up customer support specialists to concentrate on complex issues and create relationships with customers.
• Remember the importance of the human touch: Due to the increasing volume of online traffic, some companies are worried about keeping pace with customer inquiries and relying too heavily on automation. Often organizations overlook the value of employing the right tone, addressing customers by name, and providing complete answers when it comes to building a positive relationship with customers.
Strategies for keeping the human element in social media:
• Be approachable: Social media customer service is still based on human interaction. Companies should allow employees to use a relaxed tone and style that both suits the particular social media channel and aligns with the overall brand.
Customers prefer meaningful and useful interactions over automatically generated responses. Instead, automation and other technical solutions should be used primarily to take over standard tasks, freeing up representatives to focus on interacting with customers.
• Train representatives for success: With technology taking over simpler functions, customer service representatives can use their expertise to resolve more difficult and technical inquiries. In order to respond to more complex requests accurately, representatives need a higher skill set that includes competencies in managing customer service chats.
Customer service representatives also have critical human skills like empathy and problem-solving, which are essential to managing social media. To handle the number of inquiries on social channels effectively, representatives need to be trained to provide speedy, accurate responses and have strong written communication skills to deliver messages that are free of spelling and grammatical errors.
• Put the customer first: When brands dive into social media customer service without proper planning or training, the process can become more work for customers — which creates an issue rather than adding value. Failing to provide complete, detailed, and prompt responses leaves followers with unanswered questions and reflects poorly on your company. Below is advice for making your social media communications customer-centric:
• Go above and beyond: Every interaction should be viewed as an opportunity to impress customers, whether by providing extra information and support, selling new products or services to interested customers, or gathering feedback that can be used to improve offerings and customer service.
Consumers frequently will take to social media to express their love for a brand or product. A company can set itself apart from competitors by identifying opportunities to connect customers with sales.
• Focus on speed: Providing immediate answers is crucial for effective customer service. This means responding to inquiries in minutes, not days. Outline which team — marketing, PR, or customer service — is responsible for certain social media interactions. Confusion about who should respond to customer concerns will cause delays and impact the customer experience. Additionally, always ensure that each team has access to the necessary resources.
• Handle complaints effectively: Customer service representatives encounter disgruntled customers regularly on social media, and it is important to handle their concerns properly. When dealing with complaints, the goal is to prevent churn and ensure customers remain satisfied and loyal.
By actively managing issues and proactively responding to negative comments, brands can turn sentiment around and improve customer loyalty. Representatives must demonstrate attentiveness by providing a speedy response to start winning back a customer’s trust.
Every apology needs to be detailed, sincere, and show sympathy for the customer’s situation. It is also essential to outline the next steps for resolving the problem — without requiring too much effort or expense on the part of the customer.
Whether it is proving authenticity, gaining customer trust, using a human approach or making the process easy for customers, it is critical that brands engage correctly with consumers on social media.
As social platforms continue to grow and impact consumer behavior, implementing the right customer service strategy can improve the customer experience and build brand loyalty.