Social media is not just another bullhorn, and businesses who treat is as another place to advertise and to pitch aren't going to get much engagement on their Facebook and Twitter pages. One way to get more engagement (and a lot more toward the bottom line) is to use social media as a virtual call center, as a place to have a conversation with customers and potential customers as if you are talking to them face-to-face or on the phone. You know, like in a call center. The human aspect really makes a difference in this increasingly online world. Here's how to use social media as a virtual call center:
Figure Out What You Want of Social Media
Just like with a call center, you also need to know what you want to achieve through social media. Do you want to generate leads? Do you want to improve customer service, or provide another avenue for customer service? Do you simply want to get to know your customers better, so that you can create content, products, and services that are much more customized to their needs and interests? Any or all of the above? Whatever the case may be, set some goals and some metrics to determine whether or not those goals are met. Without goals and metrics, you won't be able to know if your social media efforts have been worth the time.
Respond to EVERY Post
One of the cardinal sins of social media is to leave communication ignored, to leave anyone asking a question or a comment hanging. After all, the point of social media is to connect with customers/potential customers and to have a conversation. It's not much of a conversation if you don't listen to what people are saying and have something to say in return. This is not the same as responding to every comment to everything that you post, but when someone takes the time to send you a message, or to tweet you, or to post on your wall, that's when you need to show a little courtesy and return the favor.
Unless it's offensive, spam, crude, or inflammatory, don't ever delete posts. Don't ever delete posts, especially ones that comment on poor product, poor customer service, or say something negative about your brand. The point of social media (and the way to keep people happy) is to be honest and transparent, not simply say or do what it takes to make the company look good. What makes the company look good is one that customers who have had a horrible experience with your brand.
Don't Make it All About You
Call centers can be a great way to generate leads, and using social media in this fashion is a good way to generate leads as well. However, the one way to fail at generating leads, in both places, is to make the whole thing about you. No one is going to buy or to showcase any interest on the phone if you spend the whole time talking about how great your company is and how great your product/services are. The same goes for social media, and the reasoning is the same: your customers don't care. They really don't care about your company, how great it is, and how great your products/services could be. What they do care about is themselves i.e. meeting their needs and solving their problems. Do that on the phone, or on social media, and you'll begin to generate those leads. Social media is a good place to help potential customers, provide useful information, understand their needs (so that you can show how your product/service meets those needs) and reward them with coupons and discounts from time to time. That's really what customers and potential customers want.
Tip: A good way to do this is to pose questions to get the audience going. Another good thing to do is to feature the customer from time to time i.e make them the hero of the status or tweet. A third way is to share what others tweet, post, write etc. Sharing the attention usually does more good than harm.