Category: Marketing

24 Mar

To post or not to Post

Lauren Ashpole digital advertising, Marketing, Services, Social, social media, social media strategy, strategy 0 Comments

To post or not to post — that is the question. Tis nobler on social media to suffer the wrath of an audience than to post nothing at all. And by posting incorrectly? To die; to fail.

We won’t continue to quote Hamlet, but what an outstanding guy. In this part of the play, Hamlet is debating his own life and, to the extreme, what your brand is doing if they don’t have a social media presence — slowly killing themselves.

Mike Koehler, Smirk’s president and chief strategist, spoke to students about managing brand social media accounts at the PRSSA Regional Conference on Feb. 26.

“Social media is the Walmart greeter of your brand,” said Koehler. “Consumers are researching brands online and social is their first stop.”

Why does Walmart have greeters? Even if you had a horrible shopping trip, which could never happen at Walmart… there is someone with a smile telling you to “Have a great day!”

Consumers look to your social for your positive presence, how active you are within the community, what values you have or don’t have. It is your audience’s introduction to your brand.

Let your brand speak for itself. Publish content that reflects your brand. If you’re a dog shelter you don’t need to celebrate National Lollipop Day. Is there a way to make that event relevant to your brand? Maybe.

“In honor of National Lollipop Day, we are partnering with Lulu’s Lollipops. Proceeds from each lolli purchase today will help place homeless pets in forever homes.”

Every piece of content your brand features should pass two simple tests:

  • Is this relevant to my brand?
  • Does this add value to my audience?

 

Anything less than this and you are training your audience not to pay attention when you appear in their feed.

 

Some brands believe a lack of social activity will shelter them from negative reviews. When users critique your brand on Facebook, even if you don’t have a Facebook page, it will still tag your company and appear when other users search for you. Your active presence and timely responses speak volumes to users researching your brand.
Let us help you discover your voice. Smirk helps industries of all kinds find their voice online and connect with customers. For any questions about elevating your social presence, contact us about setting up a consultation.

13 Mar

Facebook Stories : Snapchat’s Evil Twin

Lauren Ashpole digital advertising, Facebook, Instagram, Marketing, Social, social media 0 Comments

They’ve done it again.

After numerous attempts, Facebook has created something to try and outrun Snapchat for good: Facebook Stories. The feature is being tested in Ireland right now with plans to launch in other countries soon.

Facebook Stories are based on Snapchat’s original format. Users can take photos, film videos, and add geofilters. Your friends can tap through your story and posts will disappear after 24 hours. Stories will appear at the top of the app right below the search tool and above the status update box. You may also respond to a story with a private message.

Facebook has two advantages over Snapchat that could help Stories have a successful launch: significantly more daily users and the fact that it’s an older, well-established platform that appeals to a much wider audience. Facebook has 1.5 billion daily active users while Snapchat only has 150 million. For comparison, Instagram Stories – launched in August 2016 – has 150 million daily users.

For most brands, Facebook is a necessity, as it’s where the majority of their audience lives online. With this feature, brands could give established audiences a look behind the scenes into the culture of their company. Facebook Stories could allow brands to be more clear and transparent than ever before: “Customers connect with emotion, originality and sensory details — all elements of a compelling story on any platform,” said Smirk’s Managing Director Allie Carrick. “Facebook Stories is a step in the right direction for brands to give users the cohesive, behind-the-scenes stories they want to see.”

How could ads play into Facebook Stories? Less people are wanting to see fewer advertisements their News Feed and because of this Stories could be a new place for sponsored content. Instagram has taken advantage of their Stories feature by recently introducing video advertisements that appear when you move between users’ stories. Facebook already has short advertisements playing before and during videos on the platform. Additionally, they are testing ads in the Messenger app.

19 Jan

New updates to keep you LinkedIn

Lauren Ashpole Business, digital advertising, LinkedIn, Marketing, social media 0 Comments

470 million people have profiles on LinkedIn. LinkedIn was founded 15 years ago and has transformed as a company and platform through updates, CEO changes, Microsoft’s acquisition and transitioning from an all online website to an application.

Lennon Patton, Smirk’s director of sales, is an active LinkedIn user.

“As a digital marketer, I am excited about having a platform with a business focus that will be able to deliver better metrics. Some of the industries that Smirk creates strategies for are better served by the business focus that LinkedIn brings to the social media world,” said Patton. “Creating a better user experience should result in much better and more sophisticated ad delivery. This is a smart move by LinkedIn.”

LinkedIn introduced a new update for the desktop version of their site today. It will be more accessible with a straightforward layout. The features you know and love won’t change, but LinkedIn is adding some new user-friendly components to simplify their experience.

One of the more exciting new features is pop-up messaging boxes. Chatbots have been introduced, almost like a wingman, they will help you break the ice with whomever you are private messaging.  When you receive a message, on Facebook for example, the message sender and the message will show at the bottom of your screen and you can respond straight from the messaging box.

In addition to the new private messaging and design layout, LinkedIn updated their search bar and navigation. You’re now able to search by people, jobs, companies, groups and schools. Also, the platform’s navigation was reduced to seven areas: Home (Your Feed), Messaging, Jobs, Notifications, Me (your old profile page), My Network, and Search.

Smirk had early access to the redesigned company page and we’re excited for the new, more accessible LinkedIn. The first image below is a preview of the updated LinkedIn company page, and the second image is the old company pages.

 

12 Aug

Brand storytelling on Instagram exceeds Snapchat

Michaela Lawson Instagram, Marketing, Snapchat, social media, social media strategy Tags: , , , ,

By Michaela Lawson

Instagram’s newest feature is making waves of controversy in the world of social media loyalty as the capability seems eerily similar to Snapchat Stories.

The Facebook-owned photo-sharing app just launched Stories, a new feature that looks almost exactly like Snapchat’s Stories product. Both let users post photos and videos to a timeline that disappears in 24 hours.

The genius lies in the platform having a larger audience for brands and advertisers that Snapchat has failed to really leverage. Unlike Instagram, Snapchat lacks the appeal for users to follow brands on their platform, which is commonly used for more personal interactions between users.

Despite user Stories airing their dislike for the Instagram feature that is “copying Snapchat,” these same users are watching more brands’ Instagram Stories than Snapchat Stories. The fact of the matter is simple: the same audience is more willing to follow brands on Instagram than on Snapchat, therefore providing better access to Instagram Stories by these brands.

Instagram has about twice as many daily users than Snapchat, and Instagram also makes it much easier for brands to cultivate organic followings through search and discovery.

Nike has already seen that size difference in action, telling Ad Age that it got 800,000 views on a newly posted Instagram Story versus 66,000 views on its most popular Snapchat Story. Snapchat may have a higher ratio of loyal millennial users than Instagram, but Instagram has way more users overall.

Unlike Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories offers more features that are more advertiser-friendly in nature, including uploading from your camera roll and more creative pen options, including a neon pen. Instagram does lack the geofilters and ever-changing selfie filter lenses that are uniquely Snapchat’s bread-and-butter with their users.

Regardless, though, Instagram Stories is a marketing game changer for brands already on Instagram. Utilizing the new feature is simple and easy to learn, but like all social media marketing, know the platform before you go on a posting frenzy.

For strategic posting on Instagram Stories and other social media platforms, contact us.

26 Jul

Study: Ads on social media are no longer optional

Michaela Lawson Business, Content, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Marketing, OKC, Oklahoma, Our Clients, Snapchat, Social

By Michaela Lawson

Since working at Smirk, I don’t think a single day has gone by (okay, maybe that’s a little exaggerated) without hearing Allie say something about the necessity of putting money behind brand content on social media.

And, low and behold, a recent study by the American Marketing Association has found that to be absolutely true.

Accepted

The Journal of Marketing reports that, based on their findings regarding company-generated content, social media is “most effective when combined with ads.” Even more than that though, they found that brand messaging on social media “indeed increases sales and customer profitability.”

Of course the report was quick to emphasize that other forms of marketing – the more traditional routes – are not to be neglected. Although 90 percent of customer responses were found to be generated from digital ads, “marketers should strive to achieve a synergistic approach so that ads in all platforms work together to reach audiences in cadence to an established tone and message.”

So, how do we integrate social media – backed by marketing dollars – into our overall marketing campaigns?

The first step to all marketing decisions starts with defining your target market, followed by framing messaging for optimal performance among those audiences.

Only then can you locate where the desired audience spends most of their time, which in the past few years is oftentimes social media platforms. Knowing where and how your target audience communicates allows you to engage customers according to their preferences.

Various features have rolled out in the last few months and years on social media platforms that allow for more specific demographic reach within those networks. These tools allow us to know who we are communicating with in very real and quantifiable ways more than ever before.

To neglect social media is corporate suicide. So, it’s about time marketers recognized the importance of spending money where the audiences are – social media. And with that, making sure the right people with the right training are running those messages and ads on social platforms for the best results.

06 Jun

Smirk Reacts: Instagram’s new logo

Michaela Lawson Instagram, Marketing, social media, social media strategy Tags: , , , ,

By Michaela Lawson

“We need to stand out a little more. Any ideas?”

“Change the font.”

“Change the layout.”

“Change the logo.”

“Change it all!”

“Let’s break the Internet today.”

That’s about how I imagine the conversation went at Instagram’s headquarters last week, before the unveiling of their new layout and logo. The iconic brown camera we knew and loved has been replaced with a simplified white line camera imposed over a “rainbow gradient.”

Let me be perfectly clear, I think the new Instagram logo is an epic monstrosity. I thought  color gradient screens went out sometime during the Clinton Presidency. But alas, there it is sitting on my home screen like some rainbow Cyclops.” – Mike Koehler, President and Chief Strategist

It’s a classic case of trying too hard to cause waves of news among fans and media alike. While rebrandings and logo refreshes are often useful and needed, the public outcry regarding Instagram’s remodel is simple: you did too much at once.

The image-sharing platform was known well for its logo, and a modern simplification and refreshed version of it would have likely been received quite well. Most users have agreed that the updates inside the app are great – new font, emphasis on photos, simplified buttons, etc. It’s the logo change itself that has everyone in an uproar.

But how do you know if your logo has reached the level of identifiability in which changing it would cause outrage, rather than a warm welcome? When should brands revamp, rebrand or reimagine their logo? And what value can it bring audiences?

The Smirk team responds:

“Rebranding is something that is necessary – you shake things up, spice them up a little. However, I do think that brands need to be very cautious when rebranding because many will already have a set identity. … I think rebranding is more to “freshen things,” making them more modern and relevant to the world today.”  – Liz Ramirez, Strategist

“The logo is the visual symbol of a brand’s identity. That visual creates a sense of trust and familiarity in the minds of your audience. Making a logo change is a big deal and should only happen if it’s necessary to revitalize your brand, increase recognition or eliminate an outdated look that isn’t resonating anymore.

If you’re a well-known brand and decide to make a change, keep in mind: social media will probably hate it. Rebranding causes reflexive reactions and those are often negative. Don’t change course based on the immediate reaction, listen to your audience, be responsive and transparent about the reasons behind the change.” – Allie Carrick, Managing Director

“Why do brands poke and prod their logos? Sometimes I think it’s to add some freshness or reinvent themselves when the brand might be taking a new turn. I’m all for that. One thing to do though is to run that new logo past some normal people instead of falling in love with your own genius, which seems to happen a lot. Make sure your logo means something in a not esoteric way, and for goodness sake, hire a professional.” – Mike Koehler, President and Chief Strategist

“I think a brand updating their logo is most effective when they’re rolling out other big changes … Like a website or an app interface, I think good design is rolled out in incremental changes rather than a total overhaul.” – Kailey Emerson, Business Development

Instagram communicated that the reason for the logo change was that “the Instagram community has evolved over the past five years from a place to share filtered photos to so much more — a global community of interests sharing more than 80 million photos and videos every day.” The went on to say that the company’s “updated look reflects how vibrant and diverse your storytelling has become.” To that, we say:

“While Instagram has evolved as a platform since its inception, its original logo was iconic and identified them as the digital equivalent of Polaroids. I think Instagram made this change without any substantive reason to do so and sacrificed an iconic visual brand association for something that looks like elementary level spin art.” – Allie

“I am not too keen on the Instagram revamp because I’m not sure if it correctly represents their brand. This past when I’m scrolling through my phone, I always over look the Instagram app because my brain is not used to the change. I think most people have negative reactions to logo changes because it is never explained why there is a change in the first place. If you get your loyal audience involved, the change won’t be so shocking.” – Samaiyah Islam, Strategist

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you change something in the app. Brand overhauls make sense occasionally, but the Instagram update was not one of these occasions. A simpler, more modernized version of what Instagram already had would have been a much better option to roll out the new internal updates from the platform. Keep it simple, but keep it recognizable.” – Michaela Lawson, Strategist

“From a sales/marketing perspective, I think the redesign was genius because people are talking about the app. And I would be willing to bet they had a lot of people opening that app just to see what was new or changed.” – Lennon Patton, Business Development

With logos being at the forefront of any company – but especially those with apps – redesigns require a lot of thought, conversation and transparency for them to be received well by the public. Involving your audience with your company’s decisions is a very practical modern day phenomenon that makes your fans feel closer to the behind-the-scenes daily grind at your company. Don’t neglect your loyal following and remember how your decisions affect the ones who got you to where you are today.

11 Apr

Instagram jumps aboard the algorithm bandwagon

Michaela Lawson Instagram, Marketing, Social, social media, social media policy, social media strategy

By Michaela Lawson

Come one, come all to the bandwagon of algorithm freak-outs.

Another social media platform sparked widespread panic among users and influencers after announcing the introduction of an algorithm to break up the reverse-chronological newsfeed.

A social media algorithm – first introduced by Facebook, then adopted by Twitter and now Instagram – determines which pieces of content are displayed on individual users’ news feeds. Facebook gives more weighting to personal pages over business pages, which are encouraged to ‘break’ the algorithm by paying for ads to reach their audience.

Instagram announced that it would be going algorithmic last month stating:

“You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.

To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.

If your favorite musician shares a video from last night’s concert, it will be waiting for you when you wake up, no matter how many accounts you follow or what time zone you live in. And when your best friend posts a photo of her new puppy, you won’t miss it.

We’re going to take time to get this right and listen to your feedback along the way. You’ll see this new experience in the coming months.”

While users began panicking about the change thinking that they would lose their beloved reverse chronological glimpses into the people that they follow’s lives, brands began a frenzy of urging followers to “Turn On Notifications.”

It was bound to happen: brands will have to start paying to play on Instagram’s platform, just like they do on Facebook and Twitter. As the algorithm aims to create a better experience for users, brands are forced to either create engaging and high quality content or pay for placement in the feed.

Entrepreneur, author and friend Gary Vaynerchuk said there are two big take aways from the change:

“(1) that algorithms like these, showing you what you care about most, is what Facebook and Instagram have done better than anybody else this generation and I give Instagram a triple thumbs up for what they’re doing. It’s a triple thumbs up not because it’s better for ad dollars, but because it’s better for the end user and anything that is better for the end user is the winning formula.

(2) You all need to understand the difference between being a headline reader and practitioner. Every time a big update for any platform comes out, everybody gets emotional real fast. Once again, I’ve been pissed off about how everybody’s crying and moaning because of all these headlines talking about how “Instagram’s decision to include an algorithm to their feed is going to ruin them.” It’s not. So instead of freaking out when you read headlines like this, form your own opinion. Think about it for yourself. Do the homework. Be a practitioner.

Knowing what drives engagement on the visually-driven platform is key in knowing how to remain relevant to audiences. Here are three simple tips to stay engaging and relevant:

  1. Showcase products and services in creative ways. Your audiences are interested in your brand and what you have to offer. If you sell clothing, post visually-appealing photos of that clothing. If food, then food. If you are in a visually-appealing location, post that. Follow trends of what makes good content – right now, all the rage is the utilization of white space.
  1. Establish a visual brand identity. Have a standard for your photos, so that users know it’s you at first sight. Don’t use a variety of photo filters and don’t muddy your photo with text. Create consistently appealing photos and videos that your audience will love.
  1. Create interactive #hashtag campaigns. Give users the ability to join in on the community that surrounds your brand and follow others through their interactions as well.

Happy algorithm sailing and may the odds be ever in your favor.

16 Mar

Bridging the Social Media Skills Gap

Content, Facebook, Featured, Google Plus, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Marketing, OKC, Oklahoma, SEO, Services, Small Business, social media, social media strategy, strategy, Twitter

social media skills

By Michaela Lawson

In the last 12 years of the evolving social media world, the number of users on platforms are ever-increasing, while marketers lack the confidence and skills for effective messaging on the different networks. The missed opportunities and lost revenue continues to build as the social media skills gap goes unaddressed.

By taking note of some of the causes of the social media skills gap and providing solutions to each, businesses and brands can move from baffled marketers to skilled managers.

Cause: Ever-changing platforms and features

It seems that every few months, at least one social platform has changed a feature – usually Facebook’s algorithm is the culprit of this cause of the increasing skill gap. Some months, it seems as though every platform is rolling out something new: Instagram’s account switching, Twitter’s optional algorithm, etc.

With ever-changing platform features, it can be difficult for brands to keep up with the latest trends on each social hub while still running their business efficiently and effectively.

Solution: Staying informed

Make time to stay informed on the latest trends in social media platforms. Set up Google Alerts for social media news to be pushed to you, rather than seeking it out yourself. Get connected with social media marketers on various platforms to see what they’re talking about in the social media news.

Cause: Lack of understanding social media expectations

Where users previously expected brands to only talk about their products and services, social media allows for two-sided relationships between brands and consumers. The wide adaptability of social media among consumers comes with their expectations to get answers to their questions on whichever platform they decide.

Solution: Know what is being said about your brand, respond

When consumers have either an extremely positive or a negative experience a product or service, they often times take to social media to tell their followers about it. Knowing where your brand is being talked about and what is being said is half of the customer service model on social media. Platforms give brands the opportunity to respond to their critics – and fans – in real-time with their complaints or praises.

Cause: Not receiving the proper education on social media

Unavoidably, many business owners and brand managers did not have a course on social media when they were in school. As a newer trend, these courses didn’t exist, or if they did, they were not comprehensive.

Solution: Social media and younger work generations

As social media becomes more and more prevalent with every new platform, their importance is being taught to the next generation of business owners, marketers and brand ambassadors. For current brand managers and business owners, there are various seminars and courses offered throughout the year educating on the latest and greatest of social media.

Smirk New Media is dedicated to keeping information channels open between brands and audiences. Through media training sessions and workshops for small business owners, Smirk aims to help bridge the social media skills gap.

 

06 Mar

Moneyball comes to social media

Mike Koehler Content, Facebook, Marketing, Small Business, Social, social media, social media strategy, strategy Tags: , , , ,

Mark Zuckerberg is many things, but he’s not a dummy. He’s also a multi-billionaire. He also holds (and pulls) the strings on a social media platform very important to us and our clients.

So it’s been no surprise as Facebook has become more focused on money. Since going public, Facebook is looking for a steady steam of revenue. And, frankly, for too long we’ve been able to leverage content on the site, especially promotional business content, to a captive audience without ever having to pay a penny to Facebook.

That all changed at the beginning of this year, when Facebook turned around the rules of what kind of reach sales-driving content got for free. The answer: Zero.

Boosting posts and buying ads in order to improve reach is now a must for all businesses. And for people sitting in our seats as strategists, so is the importance of understanding the nuances of just what they are getting for that money. This is not a matter of throwing tons of money at a platform and all your problems are solved. Like everything with social media, there are a lot more intricacies to that, especially if you are looking to reach very specific audiences with very specific messages.

This is where we can put into play what seems to me to be the Moneyball aspect of social media strategy work. For those of you nerds who haven’t been plugged into sports for the past decade, “Moneyball” is a best seller written by Michael Lewis, about how the Oakland A’s used data to make decisions about the players they would add to their team rather the gut instincts of their scouting department, because it allowed the A’s and their limited payroll to compete with teams like the Yankees who were able to stock up on talent with big-money contracts.

This Moneyball idea has since spread to many other sports teams and businesses, who are looking to analytics in order to draft the best players and make their personnel dollars stretch when it comes to competing with other, often larger and more revenue-rich, organizations.

As someone who works with small and medium sized business, and is part of one myself, this Moneyball philosophy has a lot of appeal. But I’ve also seen the idea of precise targeting of dollars in social media spending be trampled by a run-away elephant of brands who are throwing cash at agencies, who in turn throw it at the platforms with no real strategy in place. Aside from the strategy of SPEND!

This is the New York Yankees plan, and I guess works at times, but it becomes a battle only the most bloated powers can fight.  A big enough company could, in theory, buy so many ads on so many platforms to make any targeting unnecessary. They want to reach everyone, and indeed they will reach everyone. But then does that reach turn into transactions, or by then are people so sick of the brand buying its way in front of their eyeballs that they want nothing to do with them?

And on the agency side, is there any effectiveness in taking loads of money to buy a wide reach when none of those customers are going to have any relationship with your brand. It’s like we say about follower and fan numbers – you can get a billion Chinese people to like your page if you pay enough money, but unless your small business in Edmond needs a billion Chinese customers it doesn’t do you any good. Anyone who has done and continues to do this sort of unfocused cash dump for clients is only interested in their piece of the cash dump.

Now let’s get back to Moneyball. What does that look like in the digital marketing space? It looks a lot like targeting to a very nitty-gritty audience in order to make $5 or $10 a day into a potent weapon, while at the same time using great content to continue to service the audience who are sticking with your brand every day on social media. Fortunately, the platforms continue to provide us in the social media strategy building world with metrics, statistics and data that shows results, often in real time, just as the originators of Moneyball had at their nerdy fingertips when they were determining the real value of players who got on base or were efficient with each at-bat.

In a world of online marketing, where every dollar counts, where every piece of content is a doorway between your brand and a potential sale, and where the rules can be changed from day-to-day on the whim of a young billionaire, it pays to be agile and able to make smart moves instead of big ones.

19 Feb

The power of real-time customer service for brands

Michaela Lawson Marketing, social media Tags: , , , ,

It’s no a secret that customer service is what keeps people engaged and connected to brands. With social media, customer services reaches beyond the counter tops and into the hands of consumers. Tapping into this well stream of possibilities is essential for brands to put their absolute best foot forward to their audiences.

Despite this reality, however, there’s still a significant gap between what customers want from brands on social media and what many brands are actually delivering. Exceeding expectations may be easier than many think, though. When customers are treated like real people and see brands genuinely caring about their issues (and about fixing them), businesses win their hearts and their loyalty – take brands like Coke and Denny’s for example.

Customer service matters on social media because customers want, expect and are prepared to reward great social media customer service. Unfortunately, many brands are not living up to these expectations, even if they think they are doing a decent job.

On the bright side, that means there is a huge opportunity for brands to stand out and really wow the customer or open the door for competitors to do so. Looking at the numbers, that means:

  • Only 36 percent of consumers that make customer service enquiries via social media report having their issue solved quickly and effectively
  • When companies engage and respond to customer service requests over social media, those customers end up spending 20 to 40 percent more with the company
  • 71 percent of those who experience quick and effective brand response are likely to recommend that brand to others, in comparison to a mere 19 percent of customers that do not receive any response
  • 43 percent of consumers say that a direct response to their questions is most important at a social media site; 31 percent of which expect the social media site to provide direct access to customer service representatives or product experts
  • 86 percent of social media customers would like or love to hear from a company regarding a complaint

Furthermore, social media customers stand out from other customers in terms of expectations and these responses produce more reward for exceeding customers expectations, but also present more risk for failing them. 

Unfortunately, every interaction being open for public view on social media can be a negative for brands. Roughly 80 percent of customer service related tweets are critical or negative and one bad interaction can outweigh the positive ones.

What Consumers Want

Understanding exactly what customers expect and want is the easiest way to turn these statistics in the favor of a brand.

Quick Responses

Ultimately, customers want fast responses. According to an Edison study, 42 percent of consumers expect a response on social media within one hour, and 32 percent think it should be within 30 minutes.

While quick and effective responses are obviously valued above all (71 percent), more consumers would recommend a brand that provides a quick but ineffective response (33 percent) than would recommend a brand that provides a slow but effective solution (17 percent). And nearly three times as likely to recommend a brand that responded to their problem in a quick and effective manner than not responding at all.

In other words, speed is more important than accuracy to many customers on social media. Brand representatives should not rush to give speedy, useless answers, but they should understand the importance of speed for social media customers. The vast majority of Twitter and Facebook users – 83 percent and 71 percent respectively – want a response within the same day of posting. And yet, lots of brands aren’t picking up on the urgency customers have.

Care and Honesty

With 70 percent of the buying experience being based on how a person thinks they’re being treated, care is just as important as speed in dealing with real-time responses with customers.

In the vast ocean that is social media, it’s easy to feel like an insignificant speck among the masses, but it’s important for brands to show customers that not only do their opinions matter, but they matter as people as well. Audiences need to know that their issue is as important to brands as it is to them.

Simple phrases like “I hear you” or “I’m sorry” can quickly transform a conversation and lay the foundation for a real relationship. Admitting failure or inability to answer a question right away is better than ignoring the problem as it surfaces. A simple “I’m sorry. Can I get back to you about that when I know more information?” changes the entire tone of a social media complaint (so long as you actually follow-up with the customer about their concern).

Making a conversation personal can help establish these relationships too. Adding first names to customer replies and/or comments make people immediately feel that they are talking to an actual person and not just a machine generating automated responses. As Dale Carnegie says, “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Help Them Where They Ask

Generally, people want help in the same place they ask for it. If a customer asks for help on Twitter, they want their answer in the form of a tweet, not an email. If they post a question on Facebook, they don’t want to be told to call an 800 number. Rerouting customers to various locations to get the help they need is just another source of frustration.

Twitter is where you’re most likely to hear from a customer, according to a report from SocialBakers.

Customers might also reach out on a blog or another social media site where the brand is active. They may even post comments on forums or message boards specific to that industry.

When to Monitor and How to Respond

Knowing where customers are reaching out to brands is half of the battle. Approaching the situation is the second half of the equation for effective social media customer service.

Brand Monitoring

Making sure you know everything that’s being said about you online so you can listen in for issues and respond when needed is the first step to customer service on social media. There are plenty of online monitoring tools to do just that, including Google Alerts.

Using Discretion

Not every mention or complaint is an invitation to enter a conversation. A Netbase survey that asked consumers how they feel about social listening from brands revealed that more than half want to be able to talk about companies on social media without them paying attention and many believe brand listening is a direct invasion of their privacy. Knowing the difference between reaching out for help and having social media as a venting outlet is make or break for brands managing customer service through these outlets.

Be Empathetic

Understanding the difference between when to step in and when to just listen can be tricky. It helps to work on cultivating a strong sense of empathy.

Looking at each message from the customer’s point of view can help you understand muddy territory, identify problem areas and figure out the right tone in responding to an issue. Here are four rules of things to consider in these situations:

  1. There’s a difference between listening and understanding. Try to understand the real meaning behind the comment or question.
  2. Consider the context of the message.
  3. Only engage when you can truly deliver value.
  4. Focus on listening that builds insights and relationships, rather than intruding.

Bottom Line

Most companies view social media as a marketing medium, but customers expect more and are willing to reward brands that go the extra mile. Using social media as a customer service channel allows brands an additional way to impress customers and expand their reach.

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