Everyone is getting engaged
Online dating is no longer a strange phenomenon. People have stopped raising an eyebrow when they hear a new couple’s story that starts with “we met online…” The Internet has enabled people at opposite ends of the globe to not just find each other, but to create beautiful relationships.
According to StatisticBrain.com, in the US alone more than 49 million people have tried online dating. There is however – even in the company of the open minded - an expectation that the couple will take time to get to know each other properly. Learn about each other; understand what makes the person tick.
I think most people would be concerned to hear from a friend that an engagement was being announced in the first few weeks of them finding, and connecting, with someone. Though interestingly the average length of the courtship is far quicker for those that met online – 18.5 months - versus 42 months for those who met offline.
So why don’t more businesses appreciate that their online audience wants to get to know them, rather than simply expecting to instantaneously ‘get engaged’ with target customers?
It’s not all about you.
For a long time, businesses with a social media presence were encouraged to create and share content, or curate (share other people’s) content. Having a loud voice in a crowded market was key. Talking about a subject in detail showed expertise. It created a level of authority, and to some degree, gave reassurance to those wanting to know more before committing to a purchase. However, and as is true with any conversation that starts at a party, people soon realised that they didn’t just want to be bombarded with information. They started to want to know more about the person (brand) in front of them, from asking their own questions. And they didn’t want their questions to go unanswered, or simply be ignored, either.
We need to talk.
A good relationship is about creating a dialogue. Listen to questions, take feedback on board. Respond. Engage.
There are many definitions of what social media engagement is. This one works well I think: “Engagement in social media is the ability to reach out to, and get a response from, a person or a company. For instance, if I go to Twitter and post a question to a company I want to receive a response. That's engagement.”
The stark reality is that for a lot of companies’ social media is something that they are dabbling in, alongside the day job. They appreciate it’s important and they want to be on the platforms that their customers are using. Equally they need to focus on making the product, offering the service or selling the goods that the customer approached them for in the first place.
With all this to think about social media can seem like a lot of hassle, but it really isn’t. It’s another way to interact with your customers and build rapport. Start with having some robust practices in place so you can effectively manage any customer communications.
1. Be responsive. It’s both important, and good practice, to take time each day to monitor your social media channels and check for customer comments and questions. If you can’t answer the question there and then, it’s OK to say so and promise a more detailed reply later. Make a note to follow up! People may not mind waiting, but they certainly won’t appreciate being forgotten about
2. Be human. Customers realise that most businesses are still run by a person rather than a robot!
3. Be personal. Automated responses, although they may appear to show efficiency, can put some people off.
4. Be ready. Not all engagements will be positive. If you’re using social media, put a social media policy in place. This should outline your processes and procedures, including the steps you will take if a customer becomes rude or aggressive. Having a policy to refer to will help you deal with the process consistently, and will be reassuring when you feel under pressure.
5. Be thorough. Think about the longer-term and don’t just assume the issue has been dealt with and the complaint is closed. Reach out by way of a follow up message to ensure the customer is happy. Remember to also monitor your brand mentions so you can respond to any other issues or posts in a pro-active way.
Making a commitment.
It is definitely worth the effort to get your social media profile and presence just right. It’s your shop window, so to speak. A high number of social media followers is great for any business, but a good level of engagement on a social media platform shows established loyalty with customers and this indicates trust. Which is, after all, the foundation for all good relationships.