Online marketing and social media tips for business from Shannon Belew, best-selling author of "Starting an Online Business For Dummies, All-in-One"
Brands big and small continue to struggle with how to respond to vocal customers on social media networks. It is hard, after all, to see your worst customer service moments shared over such public social platforms, like Twitter or Facebook. But not all “vocal” customers are unhappy customers. There are plenty of loyal, brand cheerleaders that are active social media users, and they are all too willing to share positive experiences and comments – even without being asked.
Whether dealing with brand enthusiasts or unhappy customers, there’s a secret to creating loyalty through social media channels. And it’s really no different than the way you would accomplish this offline. It comes down to two, very basic (but not always simple) actions: acknowledgement and follow-through.
Unhappy customers want some social satisfaction.
When dealing with a dissatisfied customer that’s taken to social media to air their displeasure, the first step to rebuilding loyalty is to simply reach out to the customer. Let them know their tweet, post or video-based cry for help has been seen. Part of that acknowledgement is also setting the expectation of what should happen next. Let them know how you are going to help lessen the pain and correct the problem. And no matter whether you attempt to resolve the problem within the social media channel itself, or you direct them to a more traditional means of handling the matter (calling a toll-free customer service number or opening a support ticket via the brand’s website), you must loop back around when it’s all said and done. That means however the problem was finally addressed, you still need to follow-up with the customer via the same social media channel where the complaint originated.
Even if your internal customer support ticket is deemed “Case Closed,” a social customer wants – and perhaps expects – that final follow-through to occur in social media where it all started. Give a simple tweet to the customer that says, “Glad we were able to make things better for you!” Or, offer a response to the original comment that simply asks, “Just checking… Were we able to take care of the issue for you?” Following-through in this way accomplishes two things. You make the customer happy by communicating in their preferred channel – social media; and you provide the opportunity to have them publicly announce the problem was resolved – and hopefully show that they are once again a satisfied, loyal customer.
Brand cheerleaders want to be heard, too.
The need to acknowledge and follow-through also applies when reaching out to customers or fans who are already sharing positive posts, images or comments about your brand. While this seems like a no-brainer, it’s always surprising to me how many brands miss the opportunity to publicly acknowledge a happy, enthusiastic social customer. A social thank you can be as easy as sharing, liking or commenting on their post or tweet. Not only does recognition make them feel good, but that circle of public sharing is a great way to help spread some positive vibes for your brand to other fans and followers. Ultimately, what better way is there to reward a social customer’s loyalty to your brand than simply calling them out (in a good way!) on their favorite social media channel?
Another way to reward happy, outspoken fans and continue building loyalty with them is to thank them with some freebies. Whether it’s brand swag, product samples, or other goodies, a surprise “thank you” gift is a terrific way to keep the momentum going for this social kind of “brand love.” And here is where follow-through is particularly important.
Sometimes, a brand can disappoint when all they were trying to do was reward and delight.
There’s no worse feeling for a loyal social customer to get the offer of an unexpected gift from their favorite brand only to have it never materialize. This happens more often than it should, and I’ve experienced the disappointment first hand. After posting a picture of Brand X’s product and tweeting how it was a “sweet” way to make my day better, the brand surprised me by acknowledging my tweet. I felt great! Then, they asked me to DM (direct message) them with my address and shirt size as a special thank you. You bet I shared that with all my friends online and off – I felt special! Weeks later, I realized I hadn’t received anything. So, I reached out with a DM and nicely noted that I had not received my gift. Quick apologies ensued with the promise to have it corrected.
A few more weeks went by (no exaggeration), and I finally received my special package. But there was no t-shirt and no product. Instead I got a notepad with a nice handwritten note thanking them for my tweet. The note was a great touch, but it would have been better received had the entire process gone more smoothly. Interestingly, I never received any follow-up through Twitter confirming that I received my gift. Overall, it left me with somewhat of a bitter taste – even though I had originally been a very happy customer.
That’s why acknowledgement and follow-through must go hand-in-hand when building loyalty with your social customers. It may seem like a lot of effort but the reward to your brand and your customers is worth the investment of time.
How do you reach out to your social-savvy brand loyalists? Share your ideas in the comments.