Businesses can utilize social media to drive media attention, gain market share, drive new leads and sell more products and services. This is if they use it in the right way. Too many businesses fail in using social media as a marketing and sales weapon by using the wrong approach and worse, improper execution. So that your business does not fall under the same trap of poor social media marketing, I would like to share 5 terrible ways companies have interacted with their own followers and what you can do the right way to properly attract and engage a supportive social ecosystem.

Unprofessional posts – Successful brands never stoop so low that they vent on a business social media page. An excellent (or shameful) case of a well-publicized social media meltdown that destroyed a business is Amy’s Baking Company. This restaurant already got an infamous reputation from the first episode of “Kitchen Nightmares” Gordon Ramsey had to walk out on, and their behavior on social media only fanned the flames. This article documented all of the embarrassing vitriolic posts the husband and wife owners made on their Facebook page, which was one of the factors that lead to the restaurant permanently closing a couple of months ago. Lesson to be learned here: do not feed the trolls.

What you can do right

To ensure that you are always supporting a positive business image in social media make sure you have social buy in from the top and that social media guidelines are developed and communicated to every employee who potentially touches your social profiles , from managers to those who administer to monitors to employees who communicate.

Arguing on Social Media– The mantra “the customer is always right” rings so true for social media. Even if the customer is wrong, proving yourself right will not do you any favors.

What you can do right

Instead of exchanging jabs with your customer, take whatever they dish at you. Accept responsibility by apologizing and acknowledging any missteps on your part so both parties can move on. The most important thing to do is to respond quickly and professionally. This is why it is critical to have proper social media monitoring tools in place. I generally suggest tools such as Hootsuite, ViralHeat, Sysmosis, Salesforce’s Social Studio and so on depending on the breadth and complexity of your social media programs.

Taking a long time to respond to Social followers

The more time it takes for you to respond to any kind of customer inquiry posted on social media, the more damage you inflict on your brand. Don’t be afraid to quell a customer’s fury because even in the heat of the moment, they will recognize and appreciate your outreach attempt.

What you can do right

In 2014 I had the pleasure of attending a talk by the Director of Interactive at 1800Flowers who said, “We have a social media customer service policy to respond to any comments within 12-18 minutes maximum.” I applauded his comment and think that every company, even B2B firms can take heed from this advice. If people are actually willing to spend their time communicating with your brand, you better respond to them quickly.

Not responding at all to your social followers

As someone who used to manage social media client accounts (now I strictly do Social Media Strategy and Training) I would be shocked at some of my clients who would refuse to respond to Facebook Messages, Inmails, and Twitter DMs and so on.

Ignoring the inquiry or comment will not make the customer disappear or worse urge them to spread bad news about your firm in social. If you choose not to address the situation directly, it will only invite furor.

What you can do right

Make someone accountable in either your Marketing department or Customer Service group for responding to social follower messages and comments daily. This is about engagement, community building. In my agency, we have someone who is strictly responsible for handling client community development. Social media marketing is more about community building than anything else.

Providing unhelpful information

If customers are reaching out directly, the last thing they want to do is jump through hoops in order to get answers. This means that every social media profile needs to have clearly labeled elements for those that need help. Whether it’s a Pinned post or an extra link to an FAQ page, answers must be made readily available. When responding to an inquiry, social media managers must clearly outline the steps customers must take to solve the issue.

In the case of many, many, many (I cannot say many enough because I see this way too often) online service companies, SAAS product companies information comes in the form of sending the social follower a heap of links and documents for them to find their own answer or to get answer from other customers. That is NOT customer service. Do not be one of those guys.

What you can do right

Take the time to build a proper repository of documents and information that will answer ANY customer or client pre-sales or post-sales question. Then, invest in training your social media marketing and customer service teams or outsourced call center teams on everything. Own the responses to your social followers and guess what? You will win and end up owning market share, believe me.

If you follow my advice for what you can do right in Social Media Marketing and Customer Service, you will gain real benefits, including customer loyalty, lead generation, market share and sales. As we have witnessed in global political events, social media has the power to topple tyrannical regimes. Then we know it definitely has the power to destroy a business if users are given the right ammo.  So do not fall prey to poor social media marketing practices. Instead be a winner. Have a proper social media strategy, hire and train professional social media marketing resources and get your entire organization on board as a client service and social media winner.

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