I recognized the value of social media to promote and sell products several years ago and I am impressed by the successes I have seen locally, especially businesses using social media exclusively as an advertising tool. I have recently started exploring social media as a customer service tool.
If you already have a following, a personal connection with your customers is invaluable. You’ll build loyalty, and your social media followers will spread the word through Facebook shares and Twitter retweets. By making yourself accessible, consumers know they can contact you directly by way of Facebook and Google+ comments or Twitter mentions.
Engage your followers with pictures, videos and interactive polling. Answer questions, and respond to concerns. These efforts work wonders for your company’s image, and customers often feel appreciated.
You can take your products and services directly to the consumer. If you have an idea, bounce it off of your Twitter followers. Post your concept directly to your Facebook page and let the feedback roll in. Followers and fans could help you generate ideas and improve on existing ones. (Look for this on the Chamber Facebook page as we start to open up the OCP discussion and roll out policy ideas to take to government.)
The feedback you acquire can be very useful. You can identify trends early, and your customers will feel involved in your business’s decision-making.
Use caution and pay attention because consumers can mention you in a tweet, you have little control over how your company name is tossed back and forth among social networks. Know that when you invite feedback, bad comments will roll in right along with the good ones. However, don’t let this discourage you from engaging the users who could be good for your business.
Customer service is a two-way interaction. They express concerns, and you have a responsibility to quickly respond. Gone are the days of grumpy complaints sent by mail (or e-mail, for that matter) and a followup form letter with an attached coupon. Concerns are now aired publicly, and many times the response should be, as well.
If you spot a comment that warrants a response, answer it publicly so that other users can see that you’re quick to address concerns. Go even further. If somebody drops you a friendly note or a mention, it’s OK to send a public note of thanks or a retweet.
If you pay attention to your followers and respond with care, social media sites can serve as a very useful platform for your company.
Kim Burden is the executive director of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce