Do you, as a marketer, feel that you’re connecting with customers effectively within social media? You’re manning the company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts like nobody’s business, responding, sharing, and retweeting when possible, so you would tend to answer “yes” to this question.
What do customers think?
According to this article I recently came across, there appears to be a potential disconnect in what customers think about brands engaging in social media and what businesses think they are accomplishing. But is this true? After reading this article, it seems that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Lithium Technologies conducted a study to evaluate this very topic, with some seemingly grim results. First, the results show that 25% of consumers expect to hear from businesses when posting on social media sites, but only 9% actually get a response. This leaves me to wonder what type of posting the customers are using – are they posting questions, comments, opinions, etc directly on company’s Facebook wall or Twitter account? Are they sending direct messages and receiving no response? If any of these are the case, then this is not good news.
However, if some (or all) of these posts that aren’t acknowledged published on forums, or are just comments they’ve made in their blogs or Twitter accounts, or on their Facebook wall (especially if they don’t “like” the company on Facebook), then this gets a bit trickier and may signal a disconnect within companies between social media marketing and social media monitoring. I recently wrote a blog post explaining the difference between social media marketing and social media monitoring – after reading this article, I wondered if companies are still not seeing the difference between the two and have a full understanding of the importance of both aspects of social media management.
A robust social media monitoring program will be able to pick up any content that refers to their company or brand online and give the opportunity to respond publicly. Customers are talking where they hang out online, and it may or may not be on your company’s social media sites, so finding these pieces of conversation and acting on them when needed can help a brand’s online reputation. If the results of this study are accurate, and some of these consumers were not posting directly to the company’s social media sites, then it signals a potential need for companies to monitoring all online conversation, not just that limited to their own social sites.
The other finding was an indication, at least to me, that customers may not fully grasp the limits of a company’s abilities with social media, specifically when it comes to Facebook. “…more than a third (35 percent) say that after “liking” a brand on Facebook, they expect to hear from the company—yet more than a half (58 percent) say they have never received a response from a company after “liking it.”
Here’s the problem – unlike Twitter, where users can easily follow those who have followed a brand, there is no way for businesses to directly interact with profile pages on Facebook unless a Facebook user writes on the company’s wall or sends them a direct message. I’ve tried it with our own company’s Facebook page – while a business is notified when someone likes the page and we are able to see their wall, the only way we can directly interact with personal profiles is if they start the conversation. I’ve even tried tagging individuals in a post I’ve made without success. So, this might be that Facebook users are still a bit unsure of how Facebook works from a business standpoint.
Customers are becoming more demanding with regards to social media, there’s no doubt. As businesses, we do need to respond to that demand as best as possible within the constraints of social media. Based on this information, is it possible? Absolutely! Here are a few suggestions for making your customers feel well connected to your business or brand:
1. Respond to wall comments and direct messages – customers need to feel that they are heard. If they take the time to write on your wall, Tweet a message, or send you a direct message, make sure you’re responding as quickly as possible. Even if you simply “like” their comment, it will show that you’re listening.
2. Post content frequently – the newsfeed upgrade changed the way users see company information. If you don’t publish content frequently, the chances of people seeing your content when you do post are minimal. Keep the content flowing to increase visibility and allow fans to interact with your content. Make it fun and interactive so users will notice when your content shows up in their news feed or on their wall.
3. Utilize a social media monitoring program – as I mentioned, people are talking where they are most comfortable. It’s easy to find online conversations if you employ a solid social media monitoring program. You can pick up conversations on any social media site, whether it’s a personal blog, forum, or response to an online article. Seeking out these conversations will give you a chance to interact with customers you weren’t previously aware of, and it shows them that you care about their thoughts. Finally, it may show you other social media opportunities to engage with customers where you didn’t realize previously.
The business-consumer relationship within social media is tricky and the rules seem to change almost daily. It’s been an interesting few years as social media has taken off, and will continue to be over the next year or two as well.