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Why your company needs a real social media plan — fast

social media

Think you can just open a brand page, randomly include “like us on Facebook” in your company’s website and then sit back and say you’re “doing” social media? That won’t be possible — at least, not for much longer. Much has been said about the importance of engaging with social media users — it’s not a one-way channel, and fans and followers won’t be happy if they don’t receive a reply quickly (or no reply at all). A tweet or comment is starting to become the minimum response people expect from brands on social media.

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According to technology research company Gartner, by 2014, organisations that refuse to communicate with customers on social media will face the same level of anger as they would have if they’d ignored their emails and phone calls. It’s just one of the reasons why brands need to come up with a comprehensive social media strategy — today, before they start losing customers. “The dissatisfaction stemming from failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers,” warns vice president Carol Rozwell.

How do you make sure the comments from social media accounts are monitored and responded to? You need a system in place to check which messages need a reply and which don’t, which hint at problems which can be solved and which are likely to escalate into a social media nightmare. Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t feed the trolls: If a comment is clearly inflammatory and unsolvable, it is usually best not to respond at all.
  • But respond to real customer problems: If an existing customer logs a harsh but legitimate complaint, the issue must be addressed publicly, promptly and within the same media it was made. Acknowledge the problem on social media, but try to get it moved to another medium (like email or phone) as soon as possible.
  • Decide how to categorise comments: Some comments may be less specific and so a general response will do — but if it’s a more technical issue, make sure there is an expert on hand to reply. Some issues may require more than a once-off response and will need to be monitored.
  • Don’t just watch the conversation, track it: While over half of organizations monitor social media, only 23% collect and analyse the data. Keep records of conversation and social profiles of the people you engage with and analyse them to see what you can change and improve upon.

Rozwell suggests organisations do three things to improve their presence on social media. “Firstly, participate — it’s important that organizations don’t let a fear of someone saying something bad about them stop them from participating in social media,” she says. “Secondly, don’t assume all comments require the same level of attention — develop an appropriate response for the different types of interaction your business faces. Thirdly, plan for an increase in social commentary and adapt communications practices to cope — this will require changes to job descriptions, performance metrics and business processes.”

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