Happy #SMDay – How to Get Social Media Right

30 June 2014

It’s #SMDay on June 30th, the fifth annual celebration of social media with hundreds of #SMDay events taking place globally. Social media has become important to businesses not only for brand awareness and marketing purposes but, increasingly, to manage customer relations and handle complaints. For example, according to a study by Simply Measured, 99% of brands are now on Twitter and 30% of them have a dedicated Twitter handle for customer services. Beyond the big names like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, more and more companies are building their social media presence on Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr and more.

Unlike more traditional marketing tools like TV and print, social media is always a two-way conversation between your company and your customers and, as such, it’s a lot harder to manage brand image. Devising a brilliant social media campaign that goes viral can catapult your brand into the global spotlight. On the other hand, handling social media badly can result in damage to your brand which will impact sales and customer retention. So how do you get social media to work for and not against your business? Let’s take a look at some online do’s and don’ts.

1. Timing is everything. Choosing your timing carefully is very important when engaging with social media and poor timing can quickly harm your brand image. Starbucks, for example, chose to display Twitter messages on a big screen outside London’s Natural History Museum during Christmas 2012 using the hashtag #spreadthecheer. Unfortunately, this PR stunt came too soon after the company had made UK headlines over tax avoidance and, as a result, the feed was hijacked by angry taxpayers demanding Starbucks pay their taxes.

Getting your timing right is also important for maximising the spread of your brand message. Adobe recently tracked over 200 billion post impressions by 300 brands on Facebook and revealed that users engaged more actively with brands on Fridays than any other day, with Thursdays coming second. For blog posts, research by Kissmetrics shows that Mondays are the best traffic days with 11am the optimum time of day for posting. Knowing your audience is also important for timing – for example, men are more likely to read blogs in the evening and women earlier in the day.

2. Respond quickly. In the 24-7 world of online social media, a high level of responsiveness is crucial to keeping your customers happy and limiting potential fallout from complaints and other negative posts. While companies that have their own customer service Twitter handle respond to customer enquiries after 5.1 hours on average, 10% of companies manage to respond within 1 hour, a very impressive response time that shows some companies are taking this aspect of social media strategy seriously.

The airline Jet Blue has received accolades for providing a fast response to customer enquiries and complaints, often responding in an hour or less to mentions of their brand on Twitter and other social media platforms. As flying can be a stressful experience at the best of times, airline customers can take to social media quickly to air grievances when things go wrong. Rapid response not only limits online damage to your brand but can make the difference between retaining a valued customer and losing them to a competitor. British Airlines demonstrated how not to do this when they failed to respond to a tweeted customer complaint over lost luggage for more than 8 hours. This was because their Twitter feed was only open 9-5, rather than 24-7. To make matters worse, the complaint was a paid-for Promoted Tweet that was viewed 76,000 times before BA stepped in to handle the complaint and limit the damage.

3. Provide the right information. While responding quickly to brand mention on social media is important, it’s also necessary to provide the right kind of response or the appropriate knowledge for your existing or potential customers. If your customers are engaging with social media because they need technical support or a query answered, they don’t just want a cheery greeting in reply – they want their problem dealt with by a specialist. BT Broadband is an example of a company getting this aspect of social media right. If you complain on Twitter about your BT broadband speed, a knowledgeable @btcare agent will get back to you almost immediately to find out how they can help.

4. Reach out to your customers. Don’t just wait for your customers to find you – reach out to them as well. Specialist third-party forums such as LinkenIn groups are increasingly popular for those wishing to find information about a company, as are ratings and review sites. If you don’t know where to look for your customers, start with google searches for “(company name) + problem” or “(company name) + help”. This will give you an indication of where your customers are going for help, advice or information. You can also set up Google Alerts to receive notification when anyone posts about your company name, products or services. Joining a key industry group on LinkedIn will also allow you to receive an email for every new discussion.

Proactively posting information about common enquiries or problems is another way to engage with customers. Many companies – and especially those with more technical products – do this by creating a knowledge bank that can be easily searched, and updating it regularly in response to customer enquiries. Providing tools for your customers to find answers for themselves will free up manpower to handle more specific enquiries in greater depth.

While many companies understand the value of social media as a marketing tool, the businesses getting it right also understand the ROI of social media customer services. While companies globally spend $500 billion a year on marketing and advertising, they spend just $9 billion on customer service. Given the cost of recruiting new customers – and the fact that 86% of customers have stopped using a company due to bad customer service – the real value of social media may be less in acquiring new customers and more in building a long-term and loyal relationship with your existing customer base. Loyal customers will often become your brand advocates on social media – the best kind of advertising. The takeaway from all this? The companies getting social media right are the ones keeping customers happy.



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