Engaging with your community through social media is one of the most effective ways to create a strong brand profile that people connect with emotionally, adding incredible value to your business, and ultimately delivering stronger sales results. On the flip side, if done incorrectly, or inconsistently, your social channels can either deliver no ROI or even worse, hurt your brand’s reputation and alienate your customer base.
So how do you achieve the former and avoid the latter? Here are 5 tips for effective community engagement.
#1 – Make a customer, not a sale.
If you’re looking at creating or revamping a social media presence for your brand, it’s safe to say that one of your main goals is brand allegiance, and if it isn’t, it should be. In a world that’s gone from service oriented local vendors, to the emotion devoid peak of online shopping, to now where we find ourselves coming full circle and back to a service oriented, customer focussed method of sales. Connecting with your target audience, bonding with them, and sharing a mutual appreciation of your products is what people want, and will willingly interact with.
Create an emotional bond
Creating an emotional bond is pivotal to increasing your customer base and ultimately selling your product, regardless of what it is. From the mundane, like vacuum cleaners (sorry guys), to the high-value life purchases like a house, the recipe remains the same and while it may be said that people don’t like being sold to, generally speaking they like caring about something. You just need to make your product the “something” they care about.
Discover pain points
Sales is problem solving, so without knowing the problem, how can you provide the solution? Pain points are the reasons why your potential customer is investigating your product or service. Discovering these pain points is done best through qualifying (a.k.a “probing”; not as invasive as it sounds), which is the process of asking open questions (ones that don’t involve a one word answer) in order to gather as much knowledge of the customer and their reason for interacting with you as possible. Getting this information provides you with some answers to key questions like:
- what they currently know
- what they don’t know
- what’s important to them
- what’s not important to them
These are the questions that you take to your social channels, either individually in messaging when responding to enquiries, or in a status/tweet to get crowd involvement. Ideally, you’ll have started a blog on your main website, where you’ll provide regular content that delves further into these questions, if so then pose your open questions, keeping it short (like 40 characters kinda short), with the link to the blog topic. If you don’t have a blog, then fill out our enquiry form and say hello!
#2 – Have conversations
Open questions & a call-to-action
As discussed above, open questions are pivotal to getting your audience to interact. These open questions are themselves a call-to-action in a way, but some gentle encouragement won’t lead you astray. For example, let’s say you sell dining tables:
DON’T do this:
- Do you have a dining table?
This is a closed question and can be answered with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There’s not much opportunity for your audience to engage and discuss.
- What’s the first meal you’d serve on your new dining table? Let us know in the comments, and tag who you’d invite!
This is an open question that will encourage a multitude of responses, has two call-to-actions, and it touches on a primary function of a dining table that’s not sales focussed; to serve food to your family and/or friends. It may seem basic, but posts like this are conversation starters that yep, you guessed it, start conversations. Not only do you get the opportunity to take about the latest roast you made, you can ask for Jane Smith’s lasagne recipe, debate the best marinade for chicken wings, or discuss why Ted the drunk uncle isn’t allowed to Christmas lunch next year. The point with community engagement is to add value to your brand by talking to people about things related to, but not exclusively about, your products.
Ever had a conversation with somebody only to look up and realise they’ve got earphones in, or have been distracted by something else and aren’t listening? Did you want to keep talking to them, or make you feel valued at all? Nope, probably not. So why treat your social channels any differently?
If you’ve posted great open questions, you’ll get some answers. Further interacting with people that have taken the time to post their opinion is critical to strengthening your brand on social media. If you’re not commenting back, then surprise, you’re the one with the earphones in, and people aren’t going to value you very highly.
#3 – Share relevant posts from great sources
Sharing posts regularly is a great way to keep interest in your social channels alive in between sales and new product periods. When sharing, the post must be:
- relevant to your product/brand
- from a reputable source
- be educational or inspirational (or both!)
Sharing posts that tick the above boxes will increase your brand’s profile by actively educating, inspiring and respecting your industry. For our dining tables example, you could share things like:
- how to decorate a dining table for a dinner party
- great meal ideas for your family
- renovation ideas for your dining room
These are just a handful of ideas that are relevant, non-competitive, will come from a reputable source, and be educational or inspirational.
Furthermore, linking to reputable blogs/articles draws the attention of those authors to your brand. This can lead to some networking and linking opportunities that give your brand and its blog/website more authority. This in turn betters your ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Meaning more and more people will find your brand organically when searching for topics related to your products.
#4 – Be personable & professional at all times
How you communicate and interact with your audience says a lot about your business. If you’re constantly salesy and devoid of emotion then don’t expect to have much engagement. Generally a mix of funny & light-hearted with professional & serious is advised. Remember you’re just people talking to people, so the more personable you are, the more likely people are to interact with you.
Discussing topics of low importance (like the aforementioned post about what to cook) are when you should take the light-hearted approach. Be friendly, joke and have fun with this, ask more questions, disagree, agree, it’s all good. Objections are good too – remember an objection is just an opportunity for you to solve a problem, so taking something personally and being defensive or arguing with your customer or potential customer will not bode well for you.
Don’t panic when you get a complaint
Customer complaints, unsurprisingly, are when you should serious-up. If the comments turn a bit sour, responding professionally and with understanding is the only way forward. Do not delete or remove the comment. Remember that anyone watching will put themselves in the shoes of the person making the complaint and how you respond to that person will set the benchmark on how they would be treated should they be the customer that has a problem. In other words, failing that one customer, in turn, will fail many potential customers. Conversely, resolving that complaint to the customer’s satisfaction, will make you a more valuable option to potential customers. So treat the complaint as an opportunity for you to display your top-shelf customer service.
When to go private
Strong leads with specific product questions should also be answered with a more professional tone and be helpful and educational, so more than just the one person gets some benefit as well. If it is starting to get too involved and more detailed responses are required, move the chat to private messages. Should you have a complaint (see above) that requires personal information to resolve, then you should also take this to a private setting. Make sure that you publically respond to the complaint before taking it to private messages though, so that others can see that you’re handling the situation in a professional manner, which in this example, requires the move to private messaging as the details can’t or shouldn’t be discussed in a public forum.
#5 – Be consistent: post & interact regularly
Many business create a social account and begin posting with a fervour, but no plan or strategy. Usually this lack of planning leads to laziness or the de-prioritising of that social account and before you know it, 3 months have passed since your last post.
Social media is not a quick fix
Posting and interacting consistently is paramount to the success of your social account. The amount of effort you put in is directly proportional to the effort your audience will put in. If you post nothing, and thus offer nothing, then expect nothing. Sit down with your delegated social media person and build a strategy together that compliments your total marketing strategy. Decide the frequency with which you’ll post, what you’ll post about, and how you will promote marketing events, like product launches and sales.
Another feather, not a whole cap
Remember, community engagement is just another avenue to generate sales opportunities, not the sole answer to reaching your sales targets. Use it effectively and you’ll create a high brand value, cement yourselves as an authoritative brand/company in your industry, learn more about your target market through metrics and insights, and foster a continuously growing audience of people that want to connect with you. Combine it with a strong content, SEO, and PPC strategy, and you’ll be well on your way to success.
Reef Digital Agency | Inbound marketing experts
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