Is Social Media About Conversations

In the dawn of social media, pundits repeated the mantra that social media is about conversations. While conversations are part of the mix, I think it’s a small part, and, while it’s necessary, should be minimized with an eye for ROI

Numerous studies have shown the number one reasons fans connect with brands is discounts, coupons, promos sales. In some cases, these are existing loyal customers looking to save a few bucks. In other cases, they are shoppers seeing if you are worth trying. If someone is shopping soley on price, there isn’t a lot of room for brand loyalty. Their decision is price-based and nothing else. Spot the people who are only interested in promotions ASAP, and try to use that as an outlet for refurbished, damaged, or “last years” products.  You can use discounts to gain new customers, but use it sparingly and be aware of the long term problems associated with these customers. Customers who are only interested in cheap or free seldom turn into long term assets.

Customer Service

Customer service is an interesting part of social media. If customers are turning more and more to Twitter to complain, it’s a signal that your current customer service methods are failing. Maybe the call/wait times suck. Maybe the operators don’t have the authority to solve the problems. There are lots of reasons, but if you are here, admit you have a problem and fix it from a corporate level. Twitter is great but people shouldn’t use it because your phone operators suck and are powerless to get anything done. My early days in retail taught me that when a customer complains, they are giving you an opportunity to fix something. If you can do it, you often turn a detractor into an advocate.

Solving Problems

Solving problems is a huge way to prove to someone that you are a good guy and on their team. Even if it’s not your product or service, try to point them in the right direction. Don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole of being unproductive and end up working for free, but providing someone a direct link to a deep page on a government website or saving someone hours of searching will almost always create a friend or advocate for your company. And, if you build a library of answers to common problems, there’s very little work involved.

Talking About Current Events

Sometimes social media can be about conversations that don’t have much value but will humanize you. Unless your company or organization is known for being polarizing or not politically correct, have some guidelines and use common sense. Don’t be an insensitive clod more often than you need to. Talking about fourth of July BBQ recipes may lead to a spirited debate but is unlikely to genuinely offend anyone. Commenting about a public trial where the defendant got off is risky. Decide your comfort zone. Standing up will make your strongest fans more loyal, but it will alienate your marginal ones.

So what are the takeaways from this post:

  • Social media may be about conversations, but it’s not stricly that. Idle chatter makes you seem more human but doesn’t have much ROI, so use it sparingly.
  • Understand people’s desire to save money because it’s one of the big reasons people connect to brands. Find ways to give them what they want with sales, promos, or loyalty programs.
  • Most businesses have gone through and made customer service an unpleasant experience with budget cuts. Customers use social media out of frustration and the feeling that they have nowhere else to turn. Look at the costs: if you can solve the problems cheaper on twitter, then do it; if not, take a step back and fix the problem at the source.
  • Solving problems – While this is connected to customer service, understand that people just want to get things done as quickly as possible. By looking at your customer service calls/emails, you can probably identify your top 20-50 problems. Provide easy to understand solutions that you can send to customers. Defuse their anger and realize they are giving you an opportunity to fix something.
  • Conversations can be a part of your strategy if you keep it fun. Water cooler talk about who should or shouldn’t have been voted off dancing with the stars is unlikely to ever cause an event as long as everyone stays civil. Find ways to have fun meaningless discussions about your topic. All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.

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