The use of social media at work is increasing. Before employers everywhere panic and firewall Facebook and Twitter – again – let’s just clarify how it’s being used. Research posted by Hubspot states that 92% of marketers believe that social media is important for business, with 80% claiming to have increased traffic to their companies’ websites as a result of their social media efforts.
Social media is no longer simply a domain for people to stay connected to each other - it’s a serious business tool that connects customers to businesses and vice versa. When used correctly, it helps companies engage with customers and prospects on a more personal level, and track how they behave and feel towards the brand. A positive, proactive and well-planned social media strategy will go a long way to helping companies build brand awareness, strengthen existing relationships, and source new leads.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is, but don’t underestimate the complexity of social media – or how easy it is to get wrong: a misguided tweet can damage your brand’s reputation in just a couple of seconds. For social media to provide any meaningful benefit it needs, like any other customer touchpoint, to be incorporated into your wider customer relationship management (CRM) strategy and, by extension, inform your approach to selling.
While still a relatively new concept, companies are jumping on the ‘Social CRM’ bandwagon quickly. The biggest brands are competing amongst themselves to see who can respond to customer queries and complaints on channels such as Twitter and Facebook the fastest. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to get on board. Here are five best practice tips to help you use social media to improve customer service.
1. Make your brand easy to find
Yes, you can “SEO” (so to speak) your social media profiles. It’s really important that your profiles show up in generic searches, so identify the relevant keywords your prospects are searching for on social platforms and include them in your profile. This will increase your brand’s visibility, making it easier for customers and prospects to find you.
Bear in mind that once they find you on social media, they’ll want to engage with you as a human, not as a company. In other words, always make sure customers can identify the real individual behind the message, even if you’re using the company’s name or Twitter handle.
2. Build relationships with key influencers
Who are the people leading the key social conversations in your field? Find them and like them, friend them, follow them (or the equivalent!), and become a part of their conversations with on-message content. Put time and effort into associating your company with them by referring to them in posts and tweets: these positive links will boost your brand awareness and attract new interest.
3. Put your people to work
The people best placed to engage with your customers on social media are often dealing with them on a day-to-day basis via other channels such as email and mobile. Your sales teams and other customer-facing staff have the real insights and experience to help craft engaging messages, so always make sure to involve them in your social CRM strategy. The conversations will be far more useful, with both the customer and company gaining valuable feedback that can be carried through into offline, face-to-face, or over the phone sales interactions.
4. Take advantage of technology
Social CRM technology is vital to using social media strategically. Data analytics is especially important as it monitors customer communications across all your social platforms in real-time, allowing you to respond quickly to any negative or positive content. Responsiveness is critical: according to Hubspot, 72% of Twitter users expect a response from a company within an hour when they make a complaint, and 60% would react negatively if they didn’t receive one.
Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are already helping businesses understand their social media activity by running their own channel-specific analytics platforms. Customers who interact positively with the brand can also be highlighted and rewarded as a means of solidifying existing relationships.
5. Create engaging content
All the technology in the world won’t help if you don’t have anything to say that’s relevant and interesting. You want people to engage with your brand which means you have to give them content (eBooks, videos, infographics, blogs) that is useful to their lives. To do this, you need to constantly monitor for trending topics (including hashtags) and listen to what your customers are saying online.
Engaging with customers and prospects through social media is no longer optional – it’s a must. To see real business results, however, you need to make it a platform for engaging customers, building new relationships and, simply put, keeping the conversation going.