Remember when social media was brand new? When you added everyone who wanted to be your friend on MySpace, you didn’t have to worry about your bosses (much less your parents) snooping on you, and you actually accessed it all from your desktop (you know, a computer that doesn’t move). Ahhhh the good ole days.
Social media is all grown up. There are now established rules and norms, and you know you have to worry about your coworkers and family snooping. It’s taken everyone a little while to figure out what these online codes of conduct are, especially businesses trying to use these new engagement tools to connect with customers.
But it really shouldn’t be so complicated, should it? Social media is based on human relationships, and we’ve been learning about people our whole lives. So here you go. Four rules to live by when interacting with customers online.
“Don’t stand too close to someone when you talk with them.”
In the world of social media, companies should make sure they don’t intrude too much into their customers’ online lives – for example, with unrelated advertisements. The key to not intruding is staying relevant. Provide information that’s helpful to them. Otherwise they’ll just get creeped out and walk away (wouldn’t you?).
“Listen and maintain eye contact.”
In social media, if someone starts a conversation with a company, then the company should maintain a human connection with that customer. This means avoiding canned responses – and connecting to an existing conversation about topics that the consumer sees as important. You want to be as honest, helpful, and authentic as possible. Just pretend like your brand voice is a really good friend who you’d go to with a problem.
“Don’t monopolize the conversation.”
First-generation social was mostly about brands broadcasting messages to their audience. But one-sided conversations do little to build authentic relationships – especially if the conversation is always trying to get the consumer to buy something. Nobody wants to have a conversation that’s constantly about the person talking. Companies need to let customers drive the conversation. This will lead to a more authentic and transparent relationship that builds loyalty and trust.
When you talk to your customers, try using the 80/20 rule. You can sell to them 20% of the time (let’s face it, you are running a business), but 80% of the time you should spend educating them about related subject matter, providing them with interesting commentary, or getting to know them. Just pretend like your social interactions are a first date. You wouldn’t want them to leave saying you talked about yourself and tried to make moves the whole time, would you?
“If you meet someone new and want to get to know someone better, invite them to do something.”
If a consumer shows interest in your company’s products and services by “liking” your brand’s Facebook page, invite them to a company site where they can engage in open conversation with your existing customers – people who know your products well, share objective opinions, and are happy to answer questions. A customer community is a great place to continue this dialogue. Once you get them talking and provide them a place to connect with other customers, you’d be surprised by all the great things they have to say to you and one another!
*Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com