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Branding in the Comment Section: How to Respond to Customers on Social

by Article by Remington Begg Remington Begg | January 23, 2018 at 10:00 AM

By now, every business knows they need social media accounts for their brand. Unfortunately, few companies know how to use them for more than sharing their blog articles.

With the right strategy and a little understanding of the social media landscape, boring business social accounts could be working around the clock to build a stronger brand, support your customer service and turn strangers into evangelists.

Maximize your social media potential by learning how to respond to your brand’s audience better.

ALWAYS Respond (Always!)

Just because you’re not part of the conversation, doesn’t mean the conversation isn’t happening. Your lack of response will be noticed and make your brand look neglectful.  

People want to engage with the brands they love in every possible way. According to a 2014 HubSpot poll of more than 500 consumers on social, your audience is using social media to post:

  • 20% of their cries for help/support requests
  • 25% of their employee compliments
  • 30% of their constructive criticisms
  • 50% of their compliments

Before you invest time and resources into your social media responses, consider this: Haven’t these people earned your attention by not only supporting your business, but by reaching out directly to you?

Don’t ever blow off your consumers, especially in places where the whole world is watching them be ignored.

60 minutes or less

Everything on social media happens FAST. Do whatever you have to do to cut the corporate red tape and empower your trained social media team the freedom they need to react quickly.

According to a poll by Edison Research, 42% of consumers expect a response to their complaints on social media within an hour. Speed and visibility are why we reach out to brands on social media, an instant direct line to the company in which the public visibility pressures them into giving us the answer we want, quickly.

Be Helpful

Think of your social media team as a hybrid between your marketing department and your customer service crew. To be the most effective, they’ll need wit, creativity and the power to offer the kinds of real solutions people are contacting for. Maybe that’s troubleshooting, a discount or basic information. Be prepared for every common scenario you can think of.

Companies can spend millions developing cutting-edge customer service tools that will be ignored as customers choose to pepper your social media with questions instead. Expect posts and tweets about service outages, product recalls, tutorials, urgent customer service requests, requests for specific information, account issues, website access problems, access to all of your resources and more.  

Whether you plan for it or not, social media is now your comment card, your website, your 1-800 number, your tech support, your product specialists….and more. Decide what situations you’ll deal with, then decide how and what issues you’ll reroute to other places.

Be Human and Consistent

People are reaching out to you on social media because they don’t want to email a stranger or navigate a frustrating automated phone system. They want you to see their face, hear their plea and treat them like a person ( the whole world is listening to what you say).

Your responses should communicate real empathy and real humanity. How do you do that? Train a small, smart social media team and arm them with brand guidelines,  but ultimately, let them think for themselves. Let them naturally insert the humor, fun, emotion and little conversation quirks that make your brand human. If that’s what your brand guidelines state.

Think ahead and plan a response communication strategy including who’s allowed to respond, how quickly that needs to happen and what you’re allowed or not allowed to say. Now the latter doesn’t mean you need to use stale, prepared responses, just that you have guidelines of basic do’s and don’ts from which any one of your social team can craft a genuine response while sounding like the same person.

Don’t Be Guilty By Association

You could do everything right on behalf of your business and still find yourself in the middle of a sh*tstorm when an employee that’s publicly associated with your brand says the wrong thing.

Any public representative of your company has to be aligned with your brand values. It’s your responsibility either to monitor their accounts, set strict policies for representing the company or simply remove the option.  

Don’t Feed the Trolls

In the immortal words of Kenny Rogers: You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run. Your social media team needs the wisdom to understand when they can’t win because they’re dealing with someone who’s just trying to start trouble. And trolls love messing with big brands, because companies usually won’t fire back. Unless you’re Wendy’s of course.

Why take the risk of sending a snarky public response back to one of these bottom feeders? Well, it’s sort of like when your teacher jumps into a game of jump rope with the kids, starts double dutching and it blows your tiny mind. People won’t expect you to get involved at all, so you’ll earn major respect if you send that troll packing in a clever way. After all, shouldn’t our brands be strong enough to stand up for themselves?

Move it to a Private Channel

For real complaints, customer service inquiries and anything that requires a real resolution, try taking the conversation offline. The typical formula for this strategy goes a little like this: Acknowledgement, empathy, then offer to help in your preferred offline channel (phone, email, messenger).

Be warned: if the request requires further communication, you may have customers posting their personal contact information. Save them from themselves by taking it down and never ever ask them to share their personal information in a public forum.

Capture the Chatter

In the Don Draper days of marketing, companies paid big bucks to hear what consumers think of their brand and products. Although Facebook, Twitter and Amazon product reviews might feel more like the Wild West of focus groups, the information is still incredibly valuable. Not only should you be recording the brand and product insight you’re seeing, keep a record of your successful responses for your internal brand social media guidelines.

Product reviews are one of the absolute best resources for crowdsourced customer insights. From video unboxings to customers answering each other’s specific product information, you’ve been given a invaluable peek into the households that use your products and services. Use it wisely. And if you don’t have an Amazon.com level review platform, find or create a version that’s as comprehensive and busy as possible.

Acknowledge and Have Fun with Your Competition

Don’t stick your head in the social media sand and pretend your competitors don’t exist. But don’t be a jerk and harass them either. No one likes a bully.

What people want to see from your brand is a fun, friendly back and forth with your competitors. Think little league team rivalry, NOT walking-around-Boston-in-a-Yankee’s-hat confrontation. Once again, Wendy’s proves to be the master of social media in this arena. Like this tweet when McDonald’s decided to go after Wendy’s fresh-beef monopoly. Or, this twitter convo turned epic rap battle with Wingstop that damn near broke the internet.

Loosen Up a Little

Even if you follow every single one of the above guidelines, you’ll probably never go viral. The brands that achieve social media fame have A LOT of fun online. They let their social media team be as fun and edgy as they need to be, without fear. Sure, we all want to go viral and end up in AdWeek for our social media skills but the truth is, what we would have to do to get there would cause at least one panic attack in the C-suite.

Our advice? Follow the brands that ARE going viral, so you get more comfortable with the notion that a creative edge can drive social success. Start slowly and watch your reach climb as you move further out on a limb.

It’s Not Science, Its Social Media

And it’s an artform, full of failures, mistakes and stumbling blocks. Keep your eyes open, your mouth moving and try not to beat yourself up over the little stuff.

The best thing you can do? Create a solid set of brand standards then give them to the fun, creative pros that can make your brand successful by becoming your brand’s sparkling personality on social.

social media marketing