Casey Hopkins

communications + marketing + events

Why We Use Social Media: Part II

This is Part II of a two part blog series on why we as a society really use social media. If you haven’t read Part I: Social Media on a Personal Level, you might just want to do that. But, if you’re all like, “Screw it, I’m a rebel on the edge. I’m reading this part first and there’s nothing you can do to stop me!” Well dammit, you’re right. Carry on, fair reader, carry on.

So why do companies utilize social media? Well, as a consumer, your first thought might be the obvious, “To market to me, of course.” And for a good portion of companies, this answer is true. Companies who don’t understand the true potential of social media sites believe that they’re just one more way to continue to market to their customers. They create pages and accounts for their brand, spewing their own blog posts, updates and information about themselves out into the social media realm daily and call it “social media marketing.” For someone like me, this hurts. It rips through every fiber of my being and is a personal, vicious attack on my soul. Okay, that’s a little dramatic. But in essence, what they’re doing is wrong and as a digital marketer, that makes me sad.

Social media marketing, or community management, as I prefer to call it, is an art. You’re not marketing to your fans and followers, you’re connecting with them. Befriending them. Learning who they are, why they like your brand, and what you can do to keep their passion for your company alive. Sure, at its core, community management is a form of marketing, but what you’re really doing is learning, listening and communicating on a personal level with those who matter most to your business: your customers.

Companies who actually take the time to respond to your Facebook posts and tweets, no matter how big they are or how small your comments are, they’re the ones that are doing it right. As someone who has managed communities ranging from 40 fans to 4 million fans, I can tell you that this is step one to starting a customer down the road of brand loyalty. A simple response of “We love you too!” on a Facebook post of “I love you guys!” makes a fan think, “Wow. They took the time to actually respond to me. How awesome is that?” Next thing you know, they’re a customer for life.

Another huge thing that companies do wrong when it comes to social media is, like I mentioned before, what many of us do with our personal social media profiles on a daily basis: Try to maintain that perfect presence. They want to seem like the best company in the world, and therefore don’t want angry comments from unsatisfied customers on their Facebook wall. So what’s their solution? Delete them, of course. But, any seasoned community manager knows that an action so small as clicking the delete button can result in a PR nightmare. (For a quick crash course, check out this Mashable article.)

The real answer? Transparency. It’s the new black. If a customer writes to you about a poor experience, either via tweet, email or on your Facebook page, most times they expect to be ignored or deleted. But, for companies so bold, facing those complaints head on with a response, an apology, a solution, (and something free if you can swing it), can completely 180 a customer’s opinions about your brand. Someone requesting a small feature that your company can manage? Implement it, then go back to that customer and tell them about it. Guaranteed you will not only make their day, but they’ll be so enthralled that “X Company actually listened to me”, that they'll tell all their friends. Ever heard the term “word of mouth marketing”? Yeah. This is how that happens.

Here is a great example of a situation I was in: One night, my friends and I decided to go out to sushi at my favorite restaurant. They told us 20 minutes for a table, so we waited. Then they said, “Oh, just another 20 minutes.” When those 20 minutes were up, yeah, you guessed it, “Just another 20 more minutes.” They blamed this wait on some policy that in my two years of dining there I had never heard of before so clearly, it was made up by an overwhelmed hostess.

My reaction to all this was not to yell at the hostess, or even confront the manager of the restaurant, but to silently take out my iPhone, open up Twitter and tweet my frustration while @ mentioning them in the process. Within one hour, I had been apologized to via direct message and my “loyalty to the restaurant” thanked with a gift card that would be left at the hostess desk the next morning. As you can predict, this entire ordeal did not cause me to hate the restaurant, but actually made me respect them more for handling the situation and my complaint so well.

So yes everyone, companies are marketing to you via social media. But it’s the ones that listen to their customers, implement their suggestions and that can take the heat and calmly respond publicly when someone is upset that are doing it right. And frankly, in my opinion, those are the ones that deserve your money.

If you believe your company is not one of these elite few that get it, but one that continually spews their brand’s guts blindly to their online communities without a care in the world, believing it to be “social media marketing”, please do us all a favor. Shoot me an email so that together, we can remedy it. Nobody likes spewed guts, promise.