Just a few months ago, most brands' social media community management did not reflect what has become increasingly the norm since the start of the pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn and social justice uprising.
That new norm is social media engagement (and business communications strategy overall) that’s strategic in content, thoughtful in tone, unified across all consumer touchpoints -- and, most crucially, performed by actual humans rather than chatbots.
Authentic brand-consumer dialogue was previously reserved for moments of crisis such as supply issues, product recalls and bad PR-related matters. Only when things got real did the humans step in.
In the absence of an issue or crisis, far too many community engagement strategies reflected a "set it and forget it" mindset. COVID et al changed that.
As people's lives have been turned upside down, many looked to social media as an outlet for connection, a source of inspiration and a voice of empathy. Their expectations of brands on social thus shifted and been heightened.
Here are some approaches to engage actively and authentically with customers
when it matters most.
Your everyday focus group. Right there in your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feeds is the quintessential focus group for your brand, a tremendous free resource that is often overlooked simply because it’s easier to serve them ads rather than engage them meaningfully.
Instead of feeding followers generic content produced pre-COVID, interact with your customers. How is your new ad campaign landing? Ask the people who it’s supposedly targeting. Maybe you’ll be surprised by what they say.
When you actively take your customer’s cultural pulse, you have the power to both drive demand and reputation.
How are they using your product? Asking for and actively sharing user-generated content is one of the most powerful tools brands can use today to forge deeper connections with their customer.
Forget vanity metrics. Surprisingly, some brand managers continue to labor over the perceived value of what I call vanity metrics: that is, followers. It’s easy to see how they got that idea, since your brand's popularity on social media has traditionally been measured by one number: how many followers it had.
However, now brands are starting to better understand how various social platforms’ algorithms work, recognizing the value of metrics like brand health or corporate sentiment.
By actively listening, brands can quickly pick up shifts in perception, whether positive or negative, and engage more meaningfully.
Only humans can truly listen. The only challenge to all this active listening to and engagement is that it requires the work of actual humans.
While there's nothing wrong with scheduling content and automating some aspects of your social media presence, it's essential that you have a real person responding to specific questions and plugging into the conversation in a way where you can anticipate issues. When customers ask tough questions, it's more important than ever to be a human on social media, even if you are posting on behalf of a brand.
Remember: Your brand’s content needs to be informed by what’s going on in the real world. Pay attention to what your customers are saying in your comment section. By having a pulse on what's going on in your brand’s social atmosphere, you can better engage with and grow your audience -- and do it in a way that is focused on long-term brand excitement, rather than short term brand likes.