How you engage with potential customers in a marketing or communication campaign depends on what you want to achieve and which platform you intend to use, but there are some golden rules that apply across all social media and networking platforms.
- Be honest; everything you write on a social networking platform can be seen by other users and potentially then be shared to their own friends so don’t make it up – be prepared to stand by what you write.
- Be open; do engage, don’t ignore people if they are talking about your company and if it is negative or critical then there is even more reason to engage, but don’t just wade in and delete anything you don’t like. People may then start commenting on your ‘censorship’ policy.
- Be genuine; if you are going to engage in the name of the chief executive then make sure it’s not an intern doing the tweeting. Of course it is possible to outsource some activity – such as blog promotion – to a more junior member of the team, but if you start having online conversations in the name of the CEO then it have better be the real thing.
When planning a strategy for engagement it is also worth considering who is going to engage and what power they should have, regardless of platform.
For example, if you are a small company and it is just the founder planning to engage on social media then it is easy. The founder can engage in their own name and has the flexibility to do and say anything – within reason – that the company can do.
For example if someone asks on Twitter if it is possible to develop web software in India – and that’s what your company does – then it would be reasonable to answer the individual by saying ‘yes of course, and we have been doing it for 15 years, get in touch!’
If you are going to engage a marketing or public relations team to do much of the scanning and initial answering of comments for you then there does need to be a plan to determine when to engage, ignore, or delete, and then to determine how far a comment can go. A decision tree based on whether you need to engage or not.
If you are selling physical products and you see a complaint online about something that has arrived broken, you might want your monitoring team to answer quickly by saying ‘we are really sorry to hear about that, get in touch by phone or email and we can help you now’. This takes the problem offline, though it does demonstrate to the online community that you are there to help.
What you probably would not want the team to do in this scenario is to answer ‘we are sorry about that, we will mail the product to you again today and include a $50 voucher to apologise’. If your online monitoring team start doing this in an open social network then suddenly every customer will have a problem and be asking for help online.
Customer service online requires the same sensibilities as offline, but given that it is entirely transparent you do need to think through some of the possible scenarios in advance so it works smoothly.
Photo by Damon Styler licensed under Creative Commons