For all the talk about the drawbacks of using social media, it is really hard to find a better all-in-one tool for small business owners. If used properly, social media can boost your search engine rankings, allow you to provide a better customer experience, build an effective online persona, connect with new business owners and foster relationships and educate customers.
The basics of social media are straight-forward: create awesome content, publish it frequently and share it with your networked connections. Many entrepreneurs leave it at that, but promoting good content is only one part of the game.
Here are 3 ways to engage with customers and build your audience on any social media network.
1. Quickly respond to questions from customers and clients.
Twitter and Facebook have become customer service platforms. At first, you might feel intimidated answering a question publicly; you might feel like you should be as eloquent as you are informative.
The most impacting and well received responses are helpful and timely. Keep an eye on your Facebook and Twitter accounts for when someone mentions you directly in a message. Also keep a watchful eye when someone mentions your company or industry in a Tweet with a hashtag. I.E. the #symbol.
A lot of customers will not take the time to message you directly, but they will tag you in a complaint. Anyone on Twitter can search for topics mentioned with hashtags. If you choose to not respond, you could lose an opportunity to correct an unhappy customer’s complaint. Smart entrepreneurs learn to excel at customer service using social media. With some focused effort, you can create a reputation as a business owner that values customer service and works hard to answer customer complaints and questions.
2. Use the “Like” button on Facebook.
When a customer takes the time to mention you, simple responses act as a virtual acknowledgement and thanks. A lot of social media platforms have a share option as well as a “like” equivalent — and this is a way to acknowledge you saw and appreciated their message.
On Facebook, you can choose to “Like” the post or share it. If someone praises your business on Twitter, click “Favorite” and “Retweet.” Google+ allows you to “+1” posts and every update on LinkedIn features a “Like” button as well.
As an alternate, you can comment on their post or tweet. Respond with something like, “Thanks for mentioning us!” or, “Thank you! We appreciate your feedback.” When you acknowledge someone’s interaction, you are showing them that you value their business and their opinion.
Personal level engagements on social media aren’t all that different from one-on-one interactions with friends and acquaintances. If someone invites you to have dinner or conversation and you never answer back, they may eventually stop asking you altogether. You need to be dedicated to working hard to build a community of interest around your small business. The last thing you want to do is ignore people who find your content valuable and interesting. Do your very best in trying to engage with every customer at a personal level.
3. Show gratitude when someone shares your content.
Social media is much less personable than when customer’s visit your brick-and-mortar store. Let’s be real… the entire point of networking through Facebook or Twitter is to build one-on-one relationships.
When someone re-tweets one of your tweets or shares your latest website blog, just send a quick message to thank them properly. Etiquette applies to social media relationships as much as it does to your every day friends and family. If an associate makes an introduction and helps you land a sale, you would always thank them and so the same does apply when a customer does a favor for you on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
An example, if someone on Twitter shares a recent post with their followers, tweet them and give thanks. If they often post content relevant to your target audience, retweet or share their content with your fan base. Call it mutual reciprocation. Social sharing can be a potent tool when used correctly. When you form solid relationships in social media, you are building brand advocates for your small business.