Using Social Media for Customer Engagement

“The goal of social media is to turn customers into a volunteer marketing army”. – Jay Baer

A number of factors have led to the economic turmoil and confusion, which in turn has led to an erosion of trust in every sphere. It is no wonder then that while customers have become smarter and more informed, they have also become more cynical and less trusting. Long-standing companies face this cynicism and it is even tougher for people trying to set up a new business. Every company must build great relationships with their customer base by giving customers reason to trust and a good way is to use a visible medium of communication to ensure transparency. Using social media for customer engagement seems like the obvious answer. We say this since a study revealed that at least 68% people believe online customer testimonials – this suggests that people are using digital ‘connections’ to make buying decisions. Companies that can leverage this power would be able to build robust relationships with their current and prospective customers and the most potent ‘online relationship builder’ today is probably social media. Hence it makes sense for companies to use social media for customer engagement and gain a lot more success doing so.

As mentioned, social media is a highly visible platform, with millions of people having access to comments and the content therein. Using social media for customer engagement would be a wise business move since this platform provides an opportunity to ‘speak’ directly with current and potential customers and enables them to keep their attention focused on the company. The kind of interactions and amount of ‘communication’ possible with people via social media is unprecedented and is a great way to build trust and connections. When companies endeavour to use social media for customer engagement, they must remember a number of things to ensure that their efforts bear fruit. Most importantly would be the element of trust – putting up content and information that the target audience can use and speaking honestly of any problems and the company’s plans to remove them.

Another point to remember when using social media for customer engagement is that the ‘pages’, content and everything on the sites reflect the ‘personality’ and ‘character’ of your company. It presents the culture and the kind of leadership present in the company – two very important characteristics of a company that would attract customers, bright talent and investors. Everyone knows that social media is a highly visible and ‘out there’ kind of platform and hence any action or inaction on the part of the company would be immediately noticed. If customers use these sites to speak about problems or concerns, it would be the responsibility of the company to respond swiftly and effectively – this would show customers and others that your company is committed and dedicated and truly cares about them. It is a known fact that customers tend to stay longer with companies that are genuinely empathetic and would do whatever it takes to gain and retain their trust.

We continually emphasize that caution and prudence are required when using social media for customer engagement, since even the best intentions could backfire if the communication and interactions are mishandled. A single comment / response could potentially wreak havoc if customers deem it as inappropriate and the resultant ‘tidal wave’ of negativity could be extremely hard to manage, given the high visibility. So in effect, if social media engagement has its upsides, the converse would also be true and hence companies, when ‘communicating’ via social media, must exercise extreme care.

Companies would be effective in their attempts to use social media for customer engagement if customers feel a deep connection with their brand and offerings. Customers would be happy and proud to show off their ‘relationship’ with a company and would be active brand ambassadors. They would endorse and consistently buy products and services offered by the company, thereby raising the revenue and profits of a company. With time more people begin to see the value of associating with the company, which would lead to more business and a formidable status and reputation for the company. When companies decide to use social media for customer engagement, they must be truly committed. Inconsistent communication and a lack of dedication towards this ‘exercise’ could prove to be their undoing.

Social media is possibly the most current and ‘right now’ kind of channel of communication. Hence companies must ensure that they deploy resources to enable constant updating and researching of ‘what’s trending’ and whatever is new so that they can provide the latest to their customers and readers. Managing social media is no mean task and companies must constantly monitor updates and comments such that they can spread the good ones and swiftly amend the ones that point towards a problem. If a company does not respond, it would appear indifferent and unconcerned with what their customers say to and about them. This is not something that customers see as conducive with good service or attitude. Using social media for customer engagement is all about being present and connected with the customers and other readers. It is about keeping the information fresh, moving and updated and making every attempt to keep the lines of ‘conversation’ open with customers and others who may ‘speak’ to your company.

To make a success of customer engagement via social media, companies must ensure that they have a team of dedicated and well-trained staff who would be responsible for monitoring and responding to people. This set of employees would be ‘face’ and ‘voice’ of your company and hence they must display enthusiasm, care and respect and be highly knowledgeable in order to make the right impact and influence on existing and definitely prospective customers. The idea is to reach out to existing and prospective customers by giving them what they want and anticipating their needs. When using social media for customer engagement, it is important to know which sites a certain customer prefers / frequents – reach out to them via those social sites such that it is easier and more convenient for them to respond and connect with your company. As your company builds relationships with some customers, they would have the ability and willingness to add customers for your company by posting positive comments and ‘inviting’ others to be part of ‘conversations and discussions’. This would increase not just the customer base, but also improve your reputation in the online circles.

Given that interactions with customers are direct (even though not face-to-face), it is a great idea to use social media for customer engagement. The possibility of creating and building personal connections is extremely high. It is best to make the site pages as personal as possible – people should believe that they are interacting with real people and not an automated rote system. Lending a human element to the social media pages would go a long in ensuring that customer engagement efforts meet with success. Some companies also use visual content to enhance the personalized feel of their sites. Hence photos and interactive videos emphasize the company’s commitment towards customer engagement and draws people closer and makes them more frequent ‘visitors’ to the site.

The fact is that companies must do whatever they can to engage with customers – statistics reveal that over 70% customers spend more with a company if it has a proven record of good customer service and hence customer engagement would be the key driver for growth and success. Using social media for customer engagement is but one tool, albeit with significant potential for drawing customers toward one’s company and offerings and ensuring they do not leave.

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