Building Bridges: Social Media as a Tool to Connect with your Customers
Last week, I had an interesting conversation with a friend who runs in the classical music space. He is a member of an orchestra and she sometimes manages the social media account of the orchestra together with a couple other members, including Instagram. Sometime during last year’s orchestral season, the official account of the orchestra began receiving a series of direct messages (DMs) from a noted fan revolving around Tchaikovsky and Russian classical music in general and how they differ from the prominent European composers of the time.
What began as a discussion on classical music however slowly began to move to contemporary issues, issues of gender identity was touched upon for example, but my friend didn’t mind as he very much enjoyed the conversation. He assumed however that he was talking to someone that could be considered a peer but when he asked for some personal details, it turns out he’d been talking to a 14-year-old boy the entire time. This interested him so much that he invited the kid backstage after a performance last year to meet with the rest of the orchestra. Social media might seem vapid at least 50% of the time but it is capable of fostering an actual connection like in the above example.
Social media isn’t just for memes
As long as you know how to do it or at the very least, know someone who does, social media can be a highly effective tool in building an actual relationship with your customers. Replying to DMs can lead to an actual friendship as can be seen in the example shown at the beginning of this piece. While there are people who uses Instagram simply for the laugh and likes without ever composing a single DM there are also who uses the platform as it was meant to be used, for a two-way conversation.
Replying to DMs are one of them but businesses can also take time to reply to the more interesting comments and questions with thoughtful remakes instead of a simple yes or no. If you’ve got time on your hands, you could also see where you’ve been mentioned and reach out and thanked them for the acknowledgement. Content is indeed important in marketing but always remember that social media is composed of two words, social representing engagement and media representing the content.
There are also way to increase engagement without actually engaging your customers. As it is possible for your customers to tag you in their contents, why not reciprocate and pick their contents to be used in your feed? You’re going to have to be selective when doing this and you have to make sure that the original user is credited but you can effectively kill two birds with one stone with this method. You get more contents for your account and it gives you the impression that you’re actually paying attention to what is being said about you in the digital space. In the next section, we’re going to go into detail on some of the engagements practices that have been mentioned above.
Be quick when responding to queries and try to go the extra mile
Aside from being a marketing tool, social media platforms also serve an important role as a customer service hotline. It’s getting increasingly common for customers and potential customers to pose their queries through DMs instead of e-mails and whoever is assigned the task of handling your social media account should always be up to the task. It might not be possible for you to answer each and every query but pay attention to the more specific ones as that usually means that the question is of some actual importance.
As an alternative, you could also try to do more by not answering with just a yes or no but to also go above and beyond the call of duty. Last month, I received an invitation from a local art institution about a discussion with an artist in connection with their forthcoming exhibition. I planned on skipping the event as I have prior commitments on that date. About 3 days before the supposed date however, my schedule cleared up so I made a last-minute inquiry on registering for the discussion.
It turns out however that the discussion was also cancelled due to “unforeseen technical difficulties” but the organizer informed me of an unrelated discussion on queer theory and art scheduled to take place on that same day that I wasn’t aware of and I was asked if I would be interested in that instead. Since I had nothing to that day, I said yes and it turns out to be quite an interesting discussion. I’ve had plenty of occasions where my queries are replied with a simple yes or no, but the organizers didn’t do that and I got a very interesting afternoon thanks to them.
Ask for their opinions
This might seem crude of me but I find that social media platforms exist on their most primal level to fuel our insatiable craving for attention. The like button in pretty much every social media platform you could think of is evidence of this. In that case, why not turn the table on your customers and give them the attention they want by asking for their opinions? Ask them what they want to see on your next product or what kind of service they want you to provide just what do they think you should do next.
Other than for engagement, you could do this as an opportunity for market research. The data you’re going to get wouldn’t be as comprehensive but it should be able to provide you with a rough picture on what’s trending in your industry. A business after all works by meeting what’s being demanded and there’s no better way to achieve that than to actually ask them what they actually want. Polls are baked into Twitter, Facebook and Instagram although it’s a bit limited. If you wanted something more comprehensive, you could also use form builders and share the one you’ve made on your social media account.
Create unique contests
Earlier this year, the airline JetBlue started a contest in which the winner is eligible for free flights for a full year courtesy of the airline. The catch? They have to completely wipe their Instagram profile and upload one image as your answer to the question of “All you can ___” as an illustration of wherever it is you wanted to visit. Yes, free flights for a full year sounds great but I have to say that the way JetBlue decides to do this is also something to be admired.
Everyone likes free stuffs and giveaways and as you might’ve expected, they still represent a surefire way of getting more hits on your account. The problem is to ensure that they’ll stick around even after the contest ends and JetBlue could be seen as an example of how to do it right. Other advice includes asking entrants to post pictures of them using your product for a specific period of time, which allows them to momentarily act as your brand ambassador. The best marketing advice after all is to let your customers do it for you.