Responding to customers is a tricky task for any business, and in the age of social media it is even harder. With many customer transactions taking place in the public online sphere, handling complaints, queries or comments is a sensitive issue. The success of any business requires adaptability and responding to customer feedback, after all who knows better than your customers what they want? However, the different ways of handling this communication over social media means that some companies get lost in a deluge of comments and complaints. Therefore, we have clarified the different ways you can use social media to connect with your customers and encourage communication.
1. A product review Influencer Marketing campaign
A great way to get customers engaging and responding to your product is to send free samples to reviewers. Not only do you get feedback about your product, but you also get the awareness raised by Influencers who are known for reviews or have a strong online presence related to your product. For the feedback to be useful the response needs to be a genuine reaction, and most review blogs will refuse any offer of a free tester product that requires a script read verbatim. If you are nervous of reviewers producing poor content or bad reviews simply to generate interest, you can always try an IM platform like Buzzoole that has quality content parameters and a double-check system. This sort of campaign will work best on platforms such as Facebook or YouTube, due to their easy video upload options, or on personal blogs.
While sending out products to be reviewed is a more risky strategy, if you believe you have a great quality product then a campaign such as this can deliver great results. Authentic Influencers who give genuine reviews have a large follower base who listen to their recommendations, a fantastic advantage for any brand. It is important to let reviewers experience your product in their own way, as this is how they have developed a following in the first place. After all, ReportLinker reported that 78% of people who read online reviews find them reliable. For instance, the hilarious review for the now-famous face mask by SHILLS has led to many copy-cat reviews after it was reposted by Viral Thread, and therefore the product being sold globally despite the review itself not being overly flattering. Instead it is incredibly painful for the YouTuber to remove. However, SHILLS took advantage of the hype generated by social media by responding to the review with good humour and advertising offers on the product. In fact, the beauty industry is one where Influencer Marketing his thrived, as explored in our previous article.
2. Responding live to customer feedback
Mostly when something goes wrong, your customers are happy to come to you and let you know. Or, more accurately, your social media accounts or customer care email. Investing time and money into responding to both of these channels is vitally important for maintaining a good rapport with your customer-base. Email is vital as a way to respond personally to private issues with your product or business, and often is the best place to direct people who contact you over social media. However, comments or tweets directed at your business are also vital to respond to, and respond to with patience. Social media is the online front of your business, and people will see how you respond to complaints. Dealing with these effectively and efficiently will actually boost your brand image, rather than damage it. Deleting, ignoring or hiding comments will prove more costly in the long run.
If you want to seriously dedicate yourself to ongoing feedback, you can follow in the footsteps of Starbucks and their My Starbucks Idea page. While not a customer complaint page, it does open a direct dialogue for consumer feedback and ideas for improved service, such as the addition of almond milk as an alternative milk option. The list below are all customer ideas that Starbucks have implemented:
This is an impressive way for Starbucks to prove they are responding to their customers, however clearly this is not a small undertaking. The web-page maintenance alone is a massive task, and that’s before you get to the task of implementing the ideas across their branches. In general, the difficulty with continually responding to feedback is that it is not a single, focused campaign – but a continuous task that will take focus and energy. Further, people can be ruder online that they may be in person. It is important to train employees and offer support so they know how to respond and what they can offer in order to maintain a consistent brand voice and maintain good customer relationships, and, further, reporting any accounts that are simply being abusive or insulting. For any business that wishes to expand, showing you care about your customers’ experience and responding to their feedback is vital.
3. Encourage comments via a hashtag
There are a variety of ways to use platforms to engage in conversation, perhaps the most interactive and instant being Twitter and the use of hashtags. By using a unique term applicable to your business, you can follow and engage with comments surrounding a topic of your choice. For instance, you can use a hashtag to ask for comments about one of your products and respond to the feedback – either in an ongoing fashion or for a specific Q&A session.
An issue with this method is that hashtags – particularly for live Q&A sessions – can be taken-over by online ‘trolls’ or, in the case of Sea World, protesters as well. The 2015 #AskSeaWorld hashtag did not go well, and their social media team seemed ill-equipped to deal with the backlash from both serious animal rights questions and ‘trolling’. They either dealt unprofessionally with complaints, blaming ‘trolls’ and ‘bots’, or the questions they did answer were so similar that they could have been copied and pasted – and most likely were. While a consistent, and professional, brand tone is necessary, copying and pasting responses is not.
— SeaWorld (@SeaWorld) March 27, 2015
This sort of campaign is one that can be far more effective for smaller brands, with a niche consumer base with genuine questions. It is important to examine how a Q&A session would help your brand image, what questions you can really help answer over Twitter, and how you will deal with unsavoury questions. Afterall, as explored in the previous example, dealing with poor feedback effectively can actually turn a weakness into a strength for your brand. To help ensure a successful Twitter campaign, make sure that in terms of PR for your company it is a time of either ‘no news or good news’. Launching a Twitter campaign in the middle of bad press for your brand is a difficult social media campaign to manage. Plan every detail, choose your host carefully, use an appropriate hashtag and be prepared for negative feedback. To ensure the involvement of Influencers within your brand area, and to follow the campaign in detail, you could also try and utilise an Influencer Marketing platform, which can help choose participants and analyse the response online.
4. Invite an Influencer to a live event
So far we have focused only on customer feedback online, however there’s nothing quite like feedback in-person. Engaging Influencers and experts within your brand’s area to engage in a live event is a great way to get feedback on your brand and product, and to expand awareness on social media through their and your social media profiles. Audiences always love the chance to get what appears to be a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look, and even more so if this comes from their friend or favourite online personality. You will get expert interaction in person, and this feedback dispensed among their followers as well.
The difficulty with this sort of campaign is the effort and expense involved. If nothing else, the travel and accommodation expenses of your guests. However, bigger spend can mean bigger reward – and far more engaging content. The good thing about a live event involving Influencers is that the content can work across a variety of platforms. This can include photos and short videos across Instagram and SnapChat, tagging other Influencers and the event on Twitter, live videos on Facebook, vlogging on YouTube and a general follow up of the experience on personal blogs.
Finally, just to end, here’s a wonderfully punny exchange between a customer and the Sainsbury’s official Twitter. It is a great example of how to engage customers and have fun on social media at the same time:
Overall, engaging with customer feedback is vital for the growth of your business. Both for improving the service or product you offer, and for ensuring a great brand image. While the effort and resources involved can be a consuming aspect of your business, it is vital to handle it properly with well-trained staff given the resources and trust to be the friendly voice of your brand on social media. If you want to find out more about encouraging positive word-of-mouth about your brand online, head for Buzzoole and we will be happy to give you a hand.Gianluca Perrelli
With great entrepreneurial spirit and fifteen years of experience in the digital marketing industry, Gianluca is now the Managing Director of Buzzoole, having previously helped found digital enterprises such Kiver, which was then sold to Mondadori. Music lover and gin aficionado, Gianluca divides his time outside Buzzoole between sports, from surfing to snowboarding to biking, and being a father of three. Get in touch with him at @gyanluca.
This post is also available in: Italian