Why should we use social media? Chances are that’s a question you’ve either asked yourself on behalf of your business or had to answer to guide a client. Usually part of the answer is because consumers are already discussing the brand online, for good or for bad, and a brand that sits on the sidelines can’t take part in the conversation to influence it one way or the other. That’s where things get interesting.
Be a part of the conversation. It’s become a mantra for social media marketing. It’s a great goal to strive for, but how many brands really understand what it means? How many are ready to make the commitment to truly be part of the conversation?
Be Inviting, Not Insulting
Being part of the conversation is a commitment. It’s a commitment to listen, respond, react and build on a dialogue someone else has either started or added to. Brands have gotten comfortable being in the driver’s seat in which they steer the conversation. Social media is on the consumer’s terms and turf. They drive the conversation in one direction or the other. Brands that want to be part of that environment need to be ready to fulfill their end of the conversation.
Imagine a customer walking into a store. He approaches an associate, asks a question and the associate walks away in the opposite direction, or worse, completely ignores the question and talks about some deal the store is currently running. That customer’s going to be ticked. The store has established a place for consumers to come to it and interact with it. To be ignored is insulting.
Social media’s no different. Whether it’s a Facebook Page, branded community or something else, when a brand decides to take part in the conversation, the brand needs to be prepared to respond.
When a brand isn’t ready...
ChapStick found out it wasn’t ready to be part of the conversation (at least for a moment) and instead wanted to push it’s own agenda after it posted an image of a woman looking for her ChapStick behind the couch. People didn’t like the image and started sharing their distaste for it on the Facebook Page. ChapStick’s initial response was to not only ignore the conversation but delete it by removing the comments. This only infuriated consumers more, eventually leading ChapStick to respond after the damage was already done.
Being part of the conversation is tough! You don’t know where it’s going to go, and conversations demand flexibility, speed and transparency. Consumers will see right through anything else.
Maybe the brand isn’t ready just yet, but every brand can get there. Get buy-in from the top to respond quickly and transparently to consumers. Coordinate a method to manage customer inquiries with customer service to answer questions quickly. Have a decision maker who is able to give the yes/no order at a moment’s notice, and get out of the control mindset. They’re your customers, so you’re off to a good start with them.
Start a dialogue, respond and react with action based on consumer inquiries. I don’t think a brand will be completely ready until they open the doors. Prepare for success before getting started and learn from mistakes as things move forward. Conversations never play out exactly as planned.