Image courtesy of Flickr, Jason Howie

A rich and reactive arena, social media has become a ubiquitous presence in recent years, encompassing in its various guises our personal, professional, and digital lives. For businesses, it may seem like an impossible gift: a direct line to customers, and free to boot – but misuse it at your peril. Social media is the ultimate test of customer service. How can you be approachable, helpful, responsive and professional, all at once, all of the time and without sounding impersonal?

Making social media work for you means making it work for your customers, and it isn’t as difficult as it may first appear – after all, you know exactly where the customer is coming from. You have Facebook, you have Twitter, and you have LinkedIn. You will know what sort of posts catch your eye, what links you positively have to click on (listicles, anybody?), and – more importantly – what you instinctively ignore as advertising. To succeed in the social media space you have to provide value for your customers.

When interacting with customers via social media, there is one ultimate caveat that all businesses should remember: social media is not for advertising. You might be there to promote your brand, but everyone else is there to chat, share pictures and watch cat videos. If you use your social media accounts as a soapbox, blindly and repeatedly blasting out links to your website or new products, then people are likely to stop listening. Good customer service is about making customers feel valued and well looked after – infringing on their social media space with undisguised marketing campaigns will only make them resent your presence.

For example, here at Trustmarque we aim to interact with our customers by regularly updating our blog with commentary on current events, news from the technology sector and advice on making the most of the digital era. By generating content that is of interest to your customers you can improve their experience with and their opinion of you as a business which ultimately benefits you both. As a direct result of an overhaul and a push for fresh content on our site, we’ve seen our bounce rate drop from 45% to 20%.

Of course, your output is only half the social media story. A direct line to customers it may be, but it’s a line that goes both ways. You have to be willing to respond to customer input and queries faster, more succinctly and on a larger scale than ever before, but the rewards are worth it. Interacting with your customers on a one-to-one basis is the single best thing you can do for them, and by extension the single best thing you can do for your business too.

There are no hard and fast rules for social media success. It is, by its very nature, a fluid and unpredictable thing; dealing with it in a measured and professional way can be tricky. Even knowing where to begin can be troublesome, but understanding the nature of the beast is a good start. What has truly captured the imagination of social media in the past? Summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge comes to mind straight away, and those with longer memories might remember the ‘no make-up selfie’ social media campaign earlier in the year. What do these things have in common? Above all, they appeal to people on a personal level, asking them to do something, rather than just sit back and be bombarded with information as is often the norm.

Expecting such roaring social media success is, of course, unrealistic, but understanding what people respond to – especially in such a saturated environment – is key to providing your customers with the best social media experience possible. Integrating a responsive, personal-but-not-unprofessional approach to social media as part of your customer service will improve both your relationships with existing customers and how you are perceived by potential customers-to-be.

It has become impossible to ignore social media, as both businesses and individuals, even if making the best of it is still a murky and ambiguous process. Being consistent, professional and accessible is the first step, producing relevant and interesting content the second – beyond that the manual is still unwritten. It is an environment in constant flux, with hashtags and trends rising and falling like tiny empires, but making your mark and finding your voice as an organisation is crucial to keeping up with customers. Becoming comfortable and adept with social media will inspire a confidence from your customers that little else will.

Amy ReeveAmy Reeve
Amy is a freelance writer and blogger who specialises in addressing technology, the IT industry and the hazards of life in the digital era. She has been working with Trustmarque for over a year, writing for the company blog and supporting Trustmarque’s position as a progressive, digitally-aware organisation and a leader in the business-to-business IT solutions sector.

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