I recently Tweeted about how much I liked the new Kmart Big Gas Savings advertising and subsequent social media presence, and what do you know Kmart tweeted back. Not only did they know I tweeted about them, but they also engaged with me. My post had no customer service request or action needed, I just wanted to share the advertisement and my thoughts with my followers and Social Media MBA students.
In the past, I have posted customer service requests with mixed results. If I do get a response from one of my tweets, it is usually immediate and faster than a phone call initiated at the same time. Other times, the response via Twitter comes within 24 hours, or not at all. My non-scientific study on customer service response rates via Twitter versus phone call always begins with dialing the brand while simultaneously posting a tweet. Not only is utilizing Twitter easier for me as the consumer, it is actually faster (with a handful of exceptions). Imagine sitting on hold with AT&T for 2 hours. Now imagine a tweet from me, a call from AT&T directly, and a resolution in less than an hour. Other timely resolutions I have had via Twitter recently have been with @westelm, @LifeProof, @summerinfant, @Hootcampus, @coursesmart, and @AskADT to name a few. Then there are the small percentage that did not reply at all, possibly because of not monitoring their brand via social or not knowing the importance of social media monitoring and engagement.
Social media gives us the opportunity to hear from consumers, both the good and the bad. I would prefer my customers complain to me so that I have the opportunity to “fix” the situation. Those consumers reaching out to brands via social are offering the brand another opportunity to repair troubled relationships. To ignore this is to fail.
Social media allows brands to actively monitor conversations and arrive at resolutions more quickly than ever before. Brands must be religious about social media monitoring for customer service opportunities and initiate conversations on behalf of the customer. Social media monitoring is used to identify, predict, and respond to consumer behavior. Listening to the conversations surrounding our brand is key to getting great results from a social media campaign.
Choosing a monitoring tool will be very case specific and relates back to your business and campaign objectives. I my Social Media MBA courses, I choose to suggest (or highlight) free tools for the students to experiment with. Some of those selections are (in no particular order, however I depend on the top 5):
1. Buffer Can manage multiple Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts, with the ability to spread out your posts to not bombard followers with tweets. It also allows for fast sharing of content right from the page you are viewing (add on to Mozilla Firefox). As a bonus, it includes detailed analytics for all your posts. Upgrades are available for a small fee.
2. HootSuite Allows teams to collaborate across multiple social networks from one dashboard. It is a web-based dashboard that includes the ability to create custom reports. Upgrades are available for a small fee.
3. Klout Assists in finding influencers in your audience.
4. Google Alerts Sends email updates based on your preferences
5. Pinterest Web Analytics Allows you to see how people are interacting with pins that come from your websites.
6. Pinpuff Very much like Klout, but targeted at Pinterest.
7. TweetDeck Desktop and and mobile application similar to Hootsuite in that it helps manage your social media accounts. However, it does not offer the analytics that Hootsuite does.
8. BackTweets Allows the user to track people talking about your brand. Users can search tweet archives for URLs sent via Twitter (and those posted via a link shortener).
9. Icerocket Monitors the web, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, and puts it together in a one-page report.
10. Social Mention Offers real-time social media search and analysis that curates user-generated content from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Google, etc. into a single stream.
You must embrace connecting with current and prospective consumers directly. These deeper connections can lead to higher-level interactions, including advocacy and loyalty. Brands should use keyword search, start conversations, mention, and listen (both for your own brand and competitors’). Also consider the concept of ‘social proof’ in the buying process. Customers are online researching before they purchase, if they search your brand via social what will they see? Use some of the tools mentioned above, search Twitter, or simply Google your brand. As a consumer, I hope to see relevant content from brands as well as dialogue with consumers. I hope to not to see consumer requests going unanswered or one way dialogue only from the brand.
Some ways to connect with consumers beyond a simple reply to posts could be (in no particular order):
1. Post photos and videos. Photos are shown to increase engagement tremendously. Consider posting behind the scenes photos of your business, recent functions, or even share photos of your customers using your product (with their permission of course). However, not all photos (or content for that matter) should be of your products, services, or offers. You may also want to ask your audience to share photos.
2. Offer contests or sweepstakes. I like the idea of contests, but be careful not to over use this tactic. Nothing says spam (in my opinion) like posting and re-posting about a contest on my Facebook or Twitter Feed. This will be a quick way for folks to un-follow you, remove you from their feeds, or opt out of email.
3. Post some clever questions. These types of posts will inevitably spark a discussion that could provide valuable insight on your target audience. You could also incorporate a poll on Facebook or your blog.
4. Show that you are listening by responding to comments on your Social Profile (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
5. Post infographics that your target audience will appreciate. Again, this goes back to providing content that is relevant and resonates with your target. If it meets these criteria, it will likely be shared or commented on.
6. Include a little humor. Incorporate some fun into your Facebook posts, Tweets, Google+ etc. Pinterest can be a great source for fun quotes and photos to share.
The replies I received from Kmart made me smile and restored my faith that brands are listening via social and embracing social media as a way to reach consumers. The advertisements were just a way to start up a conversation that had gone stale.
The entire unedited post can be found on Maximize Social Business.