It might sound like Social 101 – responding to a brand mention on social media is the most obvious way to keep customers happy and engaged. But what if your brand is mentioned but not tagged, or what if your brand persona just isn’t a ‘chatty’ one? Deciding when, and more importantly how, to respond to a customer on social media can be notoriously difficult. That’s why we’ve come up with 5 things to consider when you’re devising your customer engagement strategy on Twitter.
1. Using Your Social Media as a Customer Service Tool
Social media is often the first touchpoint for consumers to get in touch with brands; in fact, 65% of consumers prefer to contact brands on social media over calling a customer helpline. It’s interesting then that in a 2016 study conducted by Sprout Social, it was found that brands typically only respond to 11% of brand mentions.
Reacting with transparency and in a timely manner can mean the difference between a resolved complaint and a full-blown social media crisis, but what if you’re afraid of attracting more attention to a problem by engaging with it in the first place?
The nature of social media means that not only are all eyes on what people potentially say about your brand, but also on your responses. It’s worth keeping in mind that 38% of consumers will feel negatively toward a brand who fails to respond to their question, and a further 60% will Tweet again about their negative experiences.
Of course, there’s an element of truth to ‘don’t feed the trolls’ but as with any form of complaint, there’s much more value in trying to resolve it quickly rather than trying to second guess the validity of doing so.
2. Identifying the Resource Required
It’s true that as your following grows on social channels it inevitably becomes harder to reply to every mention without hiring a dedicated Twitter or Facebook response team. And whilst your staff might go home at the end of the day, social media simply doesn’t switch off at 17:30. Often a key factor in deciding how brand mentions are responded to is based entirely on the resource available to execute a strategy – especially outside of your standard 9 to 5 working hours.
If you’re simply unable to commit to round the clock moderation there are alternative options to explore. Tools like messenger bots or a simple automated DM function may lead to less personalisation but could potentially placate an angry user, or at least direct them to an offline resource who can help more promptly.
3. Choosing the Right Response
A key factor which will influence the type of response required (if any) will be the type of mention and the sentiment involved. Neutral mentions for example or ones where the user clearly isn’t looking for further conversation can be difficult to respond to with anything of value. In these cases you need to decide if simply acknowledging the comment through a like or retweet will be sufficient. However, it is still prudent to be cautious with retweets, as many users may still interpret a retweet, particularly if it supplied without any additional commentary or explanation, as an implicit endorsement of the content of that tweet.
Of course, some users and brands might retweet a tweet they blatantly don’t agree with in order to make fun of or highlight how ludicrous that sentiment might be; this, however, requires having an established tone of voice and a strong following that already expects your sense of humour (as Wendy’s does), and should be approached with even greater caution.
It’s also worth considering the wider context and intention of that original tweet; with users becoming ever savvier, tagging brand handles is more common (often with a humorous intention) and is not necessarily always a call to action.
4. To Consider: Is Hijacking Conversations Interactive or Intrusive?
A decent social media listening tool is essential for any digital marketer – they allow us to explore brand mentions beyond the insight that social platforms provide and tools like Sysomos, Hootsuite or Sprout Social give anyone access to conversations where they might be named or referenced but not tagged. It’s not uncommon for brands to utilize this as a way of joining a conversation or answering questions that might not have been directed at them, surprising and delighting the social users in the process. Nonetheless, globally 26% of consumers choose to actively ignore branded content on social media, while 34% resent feeling ‘constantly followed’ by online advertising.
Despite this, there can be real value to be gained from listening to users and reacting as a brand. As with most things though, it all depends on the timing, the role and the relevance of the reply.
In 2012 Kotex used social listening in a pioneering piece of outreach – they targeted influencers with personalized gift boxes filled with items that related directly to the influencer’s own curated boards on Pinterest. Nearly everyone who received a box shared it on their social channels, and just 50 boxes earned over 700,000 impressions of coverage. Their approach to ‘listening in’ was heralded as a best in class example; they had been targeted in their approach, their offering felt personal and the payback had real value not only in a monetary sense but also as a piece of content for each influencer’s own channels.
5. Best in Class Buzz
Tesco Mobile, Paddy Power, Innocent – three very different brands with one thing in common, their best in class approach to creating a social persona. With so many brands – and users – competing to cut through social noise it has never been so important to stand out with engaging content and a personable tone of voice. Something not only evident in the posts Innocent and co put out, but also in how they interact with their fans. Having such a defined personality means users feel like they’re talking to a real person and while it doesn’t work for every brand to use humor it clearly works for their ‘voice’.
As a result, their day-to-day replies and interactions with customers are regularly picked up and covered in the online press. Consider not only how your content is worded but how this translates to real-time conversation – and perhaps more importantly if it translates.
— Tesco Mobile (@tescomobile) June 30, 2013
As social media evolves, so does the role it plays as a communication channel between consumer and brand. In summary, simply ignoring your fans (and detractors!) simply isn’t an option – but deciding how you engage will depend entirely on your brand positioning and personality. Though increasingly sophisticated chatbots and automated response tools may remove some of the burden of labor in the future, but for the time being we will continue to rely on sentient humans to accurately read the tone and intention of a tweet and craft an appropriate response.