Social Media is Not Just a One Way Street
Why Answering Your Online Community is Important
All businesses should be on social media, that's a given. Much like your website, your social media channels need to be kept up to date with relevant and timely content if you want to build a following (try the Pareto Principle). In addition, social media engagement is critical if you want your channels to grow.
Engagement is a two-way street
Quite often businesses focus on 'getting content out there' rather than spending time on engaging and cultivating their community. Social media channels are used by businesses, politicians, and individuals alike as a platform to disseminate information without ever engaging with their followers.
If your organisation is failing with it's social media engagement then you are almost certainly losing a.the opportunity to build your community b.missing out on potential sales and c.the chance to improve on customer satisfaction. Here are some recent examples we have come across.
Example - 1
Political leaders are very keen to use Twitter as a platform to announce news and to get information out there about their performance. Yet, very few engage with the electorate.
An excellent example of this is Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Leo is particularly good at putting news, achievement announcements, and RT's for fellow politicians (or his team). Leo rarely engages with those that comment or contradict anything he says. A quick scroll through his timeline confirms this.
There are many reasons why Leo and his team won't reply to Tweets, mainly we suspect it's because he will be 'feeding the trolls.' However, a significant opportunity to engage with the electorate is being missed. There is also a missed opportunity to dispell some of the '4 social media d's'.
Please note, I have affiliation with any politician or political party here in Ireland. We chose Leo Varadkar as he is the highest-profile politician in the country.
Example - 2
Social Media Manager Ireland is going through a period of growth. Being a small community-based business, we like to give back to the local community in the form of sponsorship. As research for this article, we put out the following Facebook post (a similar post went out on Twitter) to each of the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland's soccer teams. The aim of the post was to get any one of the tagged clubs to contact us regarding the sponsorship of one of their players for the coming season.
At a time when the League of Ireland and it's teams are under increasing financial pressure and are under closer scrutiny than ever with the current John Delaney scandal, we expected at least three teams (20%) would get in touch. So what exactly did we get then? Zero, none, not a single reply despite our offer of money.
There may also be valid reasons for not getting in touch, such as not having a full-time social media manager, but there can be no excuse for the clubs not undertaking social listening and responding with 7-days.
The Official League of Ireland Twitter account did, however, message us, and were very helpful in suggesting we contact the clubs via email or telephone them, and did share our frustration at getting no response.
We are still looking to sponsor a player from the League of Ireland, so if you can help do get in touch.
Example - 3
The Travel Industry
Our third example is the KLM Twitter account, and if you ever needed an example of doing things right, then KLM is it.
KLM employs 150+ staff to handle social media and aim to respond within 54 minutes (a fact sometimes published on their Twitter page). Their responses are both fast, helpful and show the brands fun personality.
Employees of KLM are encouraged to 'own' a conversation and have authority and autonomy to make decisions on behalf of the company.
Aside from their official booking website KLM run a blog. The KLM blog forms the source of much of their social media content, and this, in turn, gets a vast amount of likes and comments. KLM responds to what we estimate to be 70% of these comments on Twitter.
For more on the use of social media by airlines, take a look at this post on the top 8 best airlines for social media use see my previous blog post.
Again, we have no affiliation with KLM. We have chosen them as they are an industry leader for travel and social media.
The Rules of Social Media Engagement
As we've seen and discussed engagement with your audience is critical. Here are some simple to follow rules for when it comes to engagement.
- Actively monitor all your social media channels for comments and feedback. Sendible has an excellent product for brand monitoring
- Have some standard response templates prepared in advanced
- Avoid typical platitudes in your responses and consider the time and effort somebody has taken to post their message
- Use and show your personality in your responses keeping things professional and courteous
- Try to defuse any controversy in comments and feedback; trolls will attempt to provoke you. You can't control what's thrown at you, but you can influence and defuse the tone of the conversation
- Don't be afraid to take the conversation offline. In the case of a complaint ask for them to DM you a number so that you can call them
- Be consistent with your approach when handling comments online, step 2 will further aid you in this area, and over time you can build a library of responses for most situations.
- Engage with other social media presences, don't just wait for comments or posts on your social media channels
- If you commit to doing something for someone, then do it (as in life).