You’re finally convinced of the power of social media. Now you’d like to know how to use it properly. Social media has a few basic unwritten rules to remember. Here are the simple dos and don’ts to achieve a great social media business experience.
Tip #1: Keep it conversational
Online shoe-retailer Zappos doesn’t market on Twitter. Instead, it converses. A small army of 436 Zappos employees talk to customers every day via Twitter. This simple talk and listen method has a humanizing effect. Interaction with customers turns out to be a potent sales driver for Zappos and countless other companies with an online presence. The conversational approach works great for small businesses too. Creating this one-to-one dialogue makes it easier than ever to open up the lines of communication with your customer.
Tip #2: It’s a two-way street
When you use social media, let others join in on the conversation. When you receive a tweet or Facebook message from a happy customer, by all means, send a message back! Engage with your customer. This two-way dialogue says to the customer: We care. Sure, there’s no way for you to tweet or talk back every single time you’re mentioned online. But do your best to follow up with happy customers. Perhaps even more important, follow-up with those unhappy customers telling the world why they don’t like your product.
Tip #3: Another form of customer service
Look at your social media outlets as another way you do customer service. Social media is a conversation, but it also works as a search engine. Your customers will come online looking for information before, during, or after the purchase of a product. They want to ask questions, get help, rave about the product, or log a complaint. When they do, respond appropriately. Ultimately, your goal is to end up with a satisfied customer, no matter what it takes. With social media, happy customers mean repeat sales and they also help you generate some free advertising online.
Tip #4: Don’t spam your followers
People are very picky about what information they receive. Therefore, what may not be considered spam to you could easily be identified as spam to the customer. That’s why you should proceed with caution any time you share information not related to your company or product. Even more, you want to be very careful before you decide to share or sell your followers list with anyone else. Customers say that trust and privacy are two of their top concerns as consumers. Your customers want you to respect and protect their online privacy.
Tip #5: Be careful what you tweet (or say)
People are easily offended. It happens. Usually it’s an innocent mistake that happens when the person wasn’t even trying to be offensive. Knowing this, you need to be very careful any time you tweet or post on Facebook. Like your mother always told you, think before you “speak.” If you’re unsure, run it by someone else before hitting the “submit” button. The Internet has lasting power. It only takes one person to see your words to copy and repeat them, even if you delete them later. A new joke goes this way: What happens in Vegas, stays on Facebook.
Tip #6: Manage negativity
Bad things happen. It’s how you deal with it that counts. Leading airline Jet Blue tweets their flight delays. This makes their customers happy. Think about it for a second: a negative thing like a flight delay makes a customer happy? Sounds kinda crazy, doesn’t it? Well, as with many things in life, flight delays are inevitable. But using social media to alert customers to delays makes a bad situation feel a little bit better, keeping the customer in control of information. This is a classic example of taking bad news and turning it into good customer service.
With real-time social media, you can announce problems and delays with ease. Social media gives you an outlet to make sure each customer knows what’s going on. Is your product facing a shipping delay due to a major weather event or crisis? Tweet it, post it, and you may be surprised that your customers react positively to it.
Tip #7: Keep it simple
Twitter limits you to 140 characters, so it’s not too hard to manage how much you say in any given tweet. It’s the frequency of those tweets you need to monitor. There are no hard and fast rules about how many times a day you should tweet your followers. In fact, social media experts are all over the map with advice on this. However, I’d lean towards being cautious and conservative. Tweeting or posting too often could only aggravate your customer. Save information blasts (those that go to all your followers) for product specials, sales, and critical information. You can send individual tweets and private messages to reply to customer questions and problems as necessary.
Tip #8: Don’t mix your public life with your private life
Have separate Facebook, Twitter, and other accounts for your personal life. Don’t share photos and information on your business account unless it is absolutely pertinent to your business. (This would be rare.) In the world of social media, don’t mix business with pleasure. If it accidentally happens, apologize, and move on.
Tip #9: Not all followers are friends
Once you create an online presence for your business, it’s not just your customers who will find you. Over time, other businesses in your niche and even your biggest competition will find you. Your competition may be following you under an assumed name, just to gather information about your specials and products. Potential suppliers will hunt you down. Anyone and everyone who could potentially “help” you in your business will follow you. The moral of this story? Not everyone who follows you online is a fan. Know this in advance, so you can choose how to proceed. Some of it is just out of your control.
Don’t forget that social media is just one form of communication in your business plan. Treat it with the same professional attitude and attention you give to other areas of your business and you’ll see results.