10 Essential Elements of Social Media EngagementConnecting with your customers and potential customers via social media is a wonderful way toincrease your company’s business. The fact of the matter is that consumers are turning towardsocial media in droves, and relying on it more and more for consumer advice. If you want tostay ahead of the game, you need to engage customers via social media.Yet, it’s easy to spend a lot of time with social media trying to engage customers, only to findthat you’re not making much headway. There are some essential elements and principles youneed to apply if you’re going to make effective use of your social media engagement:1. Avoid favoritism. Realize that the A-listers aren’t necessarily your best audience. The restof the list – the long tail – can have an enormous impact on their audience. Don’t spend all ofyour time trying to get the attention of the big guys at the expense of the little guys.2. Respect others’ time. When someone engages you, respond within a reasonable amount oftime. If it’s during business hours, do it with 60 minutes. If it’s during the evenings or on theweekends, do it at the next available opportunity. No matter who it is, respond in a timely
manner. Even if they’re not a core customer, it demonstrates your respect to other customersand other potential customers.3. Keep it professional. Your tweets, Facebook status updates and your blog posts are allpublic. Realize, though, that your direct messages, private messages, chats, and emails can allbecome public with a simple cut and paste. Proceed as if everything you post to social mediacould one day wind up in the newspaper. Avoid using coarse language, and keep things PG-13and family friendly.4. Keep it friendly. Avoid the temptation to get into flame wars or contests of spite with yourdetractors. Clearly address any legitimate accusations, but don’t make it personal. Don’t runsomeone else down, and don’t use harsh tones or harsh words with anyone in your socialmedia presence. The whole point of social networking is to show potential customers that theyhave a friend in your company.5. Keep social media conversations online. At some point, you’re going to need to exchangemore information – such as when the customer makes a purchase. Keep as much of the rest ofthe interaction in public, so you can demonstrate to others how you treat your customers. Thisin itself is a wonderful way to promote branding, as well as turn customers into real productevangelists.6. Be generous and responsive in your online customer support. Even if you wouldn’tnormally replace a defective product after warranty, consider doing so when asked in the socialmedia space. If you have a high rate of product failure, however, this won’t work as you’ll havepeople crawling out of the woodwork. Of course, if that’s the case, you’ve got more importantproblems with your business to worry about than your social media presence.7. Be chatty. Engage your customers. Social media isn’t some call center where you need torush people off the phone in order to meet your call statistics. Take the time to build therapport you need to build, and it will pay off in the long run.8. Don’t drop the ball. When someone asks you a question, give them the answer they need.Don’t just give them a link. Don’t send them to someone else’s Facebook page. Walk themthrough the process, step-by-step. Use each query as an opportunity to teach the asker. Thishelps to build your overall rapport and trust with onlookers, for example.9. Remember that everyone else is living their own life. Sometimes, people get grumpy andsnappy. The social media space is no different. Recognize that, even when someone complainsabout your company, it’s not a personal attack. Be kind, patient, generous, responsive and justoverall friendly.
10. Be authentic. You need to really engage with your customers. This makes outsourcing thesocial media space hard. That’s not to say it can’t be done, just that it has to be done bysomeone who has a vested interest in your company, who’s intimately familiar with yourbusiness ideals, and who’s willing to go the extra mile and establish real customer relationships.Engaging customers in the social media space means reaching out, making yourself available,and recognizing that you’re always being watched by countless potential customers to see howexactly you’re going to act.