Social media is wonderful for connecting with customers directly and in real time. It’s challenging for the same reasons, however. You must be “plugged in” 24/7, and as a small business, that gets difficult. Fortunately, there is an easy, 3-step recipe for connecting with customers, responding to conversations, and dealing with not-so-positive mentions. And you don’t need a huge budget or staff to do so!
1) Listen- First, listen carefully to what’s going on around you. Find conversations happening on social media and listen to exactly what’s being said about your company. Conversations, both good and bad, give you the opportunity to jump in and leave a favorable impression on current and potential customers. It also gives you the chance to steer the conversation in a positive direction, so locating these mentions is crucial.
Use tools like Google Alerts or Mention to track every time you, your company, your products, or keywords and hashtags relating to your brand are mentioned on social media. You will then be alerted in real time whenever these designated words are mentioned anywhere online, so you can listen in immediately.
2) Respond- Next, craft a careful reply and get in on the conversation. Only respond to a conversation after you’ve listened closely and determined the exact issue at hand. Customers expect timely replies (typically a few hours or less!), so using the monitoring tools mentioned above is important. Reply as quickly as possible, make sure your response is carefully crafted, and always remain professional and tactful. Reach out both publicly and privately, and provide contact information to allow customers to connect with an actual employee.
3) Connect- By listening carefully and responding quickly, you build connections with customers. To best develop these connections, be specific and personable in your replies. Use customers’ names, make them feel important, and respond to the actual issue at hand. Never use a pre-fabricated, cookie cutter reply. This will get you nowhere, and will likely harm your reputation. Instead, show you are listening and concerned. Be friendly and empathetic, and provide actual solutions. This will make your customers happy and result in free PR for your business!
Although time consuming, customer service on social media doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Start with the tips above, and from there, develop a strategy that works for you and your business.
If you have questions or need help managing your customer relations on social media, contact our Iowa Western SBDC office at (712) 325-3376.
We are a free resource for small businesses and start-ups in Southwest Iowa. We serve seven counties – including Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby – and provide counseling services to help businesses start, grow, and prosper.
(Photo credit: Andrew Russeth / Flickr)