Once you’ve gotten the idea past management, and you’re ready to start Community Management for your business, it is crucial to take the right steps to prepare for this task. Social media customer service can bring a lot of great benefits but it also carries a lot of risk that needs to be carefully managed.
So, how should your business get started with social customer service? Ten years ago, this may have been a simple monthly or bimonthly conference to attend, with a follow up email sent out to employees. Now, your business’s social image could mean life or death, especially if your customers or clients are also socially active. Here’s our how-to guide for using social media customer service to your business’s advantage and to generate success:
STEP 1: CHOOSE THE RIGHT NETWORK.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Pinterest, Glassdoor, Instagram, Tumblr, Yelp… the list goes on. The key to using social media customer service correctly in order to leverage your business is deciding which social network can provide you with the most benefits and reach the right people. Each network has its own characteristics and audience that requires some extra research to find the right one. Even though Facebook and Twitter are the biggest channels, a small donut shop in a coastal town might get better results socially involving themselves on Yelp and Foursquare.
Also, certain social sites imply a certain level of activity – if the donut shop does decide that Twitter is their best bet, they should be able to tweet at least a few times per week, if not daily. When you have the right platform, your business plan will build from there.
STEP 2: INVOLVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE.
It is without a doubt crucial that, if a business chooses to join a social community, the business should have an expert that can manage it. Social customer service is very different from Marketing, and the two cannot be combined into one, especially if your business is large. With that being said, invest in a Community Manager. Large corporations should have at least three people managing social engagement in order to meet customers’ needs. If you don’t have the resources to do this, outsource! At the same cost of one internal Community Manager, you can afford a fully-equipped team to do the same; just be sure they are completely trained and aligned on your business’s tone of voice and informed on your marketing campaigns, and social media goals.
In addition to a social customer service department, involve your Marketing, HR and special departments like Product Development. This is important because your social brand needs to be able to respond to your customers, no matter the question. When job seekers ask about their application, HR should be able to provide the proper response for the Community Manager to give. The Community Manager should also be fully aware of any product campaigns or events to be able to manage them properly on social networks.
STEP 3: HAVE A PLAN.
Don’t just jump into social media and expect everything to fall into place. Many business initiatives require ROI projections, and that will be the first thing management asks you when you put social media customer service on their plates. Set your goals and expectations, and run them by Sales and Marketing to get their input. How many sales can we get if we add a Call to Action in our social posts? What is our demographic, where are they socially, and how can we aim to reach them? Social can do great things for your business, but first you must do your research in order to deliver.
STEP 4: INTERACT WITH THE RIGHT USERS IN THE RIGHT WAY.
Many customers and clients use social networking sites to make their voice heard by those that matter. The key to building your audience is interacting in the right way. Urgent matters require urgent responses, and when a business can react accordingly to what their audience is saying about them, customers will see that this is a business they can trust to bring the best service and quality.
That being said, some users make negative noise on social networks just because they enjoy it. If customers see that this upsets a brand, they might think the business isn’t confident in their service or product. You should be able to maintain your cool, and defend your brand without losing your brand’s special ‘personality.’
STEP 5: MAKE USE OF ANY OPPORTUNITY.
A study by the American Marketing Association found that 64% of marketing experts believe that word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective form of advertising. Take notice of small opportunities where you can make a customer’s day, thus resulting in more customers from word-of-mouth.
The use of social listening is especially important in Community Management. Many customers don’t choose to interact directly with the brand on its own page, but rather the use of the brand in a post to all their friends and followers (note: the average Facebook user has 338 friends). When you actively listen to your brand mentions, you can pick up on social conversations where you can defend your brand, solve an issue, or make an opportunity with an unsuspecting customer.
STEP 6: EMBRACE CRISIS AND MANAGE IT WISELY.
Social media customer service requires a crisis management plan. Most of the time, this means cleaning up any messes your dissatisfied customers may flood your social page with, generating announcements when something goes wrong in production, or being prepared to jump on Facebook at 2am Friday night to console a social troll.
However, there’s another side of crisis management that companies tend to avoid. In certain (very rare, once in a lifetime) cases, a business can generate commotion about their company and twist it in a positive light. Take Ruffles, for example: a large potato chip company that is massive in not only the U.S. but also Brazil. When one Brazilian customer took to social media to complain about the amount of air in the bags, and when countless other fans decided to join in the fight, Ruffles came back with a classy response. They explained the reason behind their air-filled bags and created a big event out of it, bringing a super-jumbo sized Ruffles bag to Brazil to explain to customers the importance of the air in the bag. Not only did they defend their product, but they made use of the marketing opportunity in the crisis, possibly resulting in a growth in sales.