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Five Mistakes to Avoid When Engaging with Customers on Social Media

Social media poses a quandary for many organizations: It’s a new channel for customer engagement, but acting like a newbie could be devastating to your reputation. Advice is rampant for what to do and not do on social media.   Based on my personal experience at SAP as well as learning from early adopters, here are five mistakes you should avoid when you choose to engage with your customers and fans on social media:

Mistake #1: Responding too slowly or not responding at all.  When responding to a post or a tweet, timeliness is of the essence; and we’re talking hours, not days. If you don’t respond in an acceptable timeframe, you’ll look like you just don’t get it or, worse, aren’t willing or able to meet customer expectations on social media. An acceptable response window is no more than an hour or two.

Mistake #2: Respond with a non-response.  When responding to a message, tell your respondents something they can use, something that addresses their concerns and answers their questions.  Don’t respond with something that looks like a script (the equivalent of auto email response). Sometimes, this mistake is caused by putting a “team of interns” or a marketing agency to manage your social media channel.  Customers on social media expect living and breathing knowledgeable people behind the social media avatar.  So, you need to be one.   

Mistake #3: Always deflect conversation to another channel. In most cases, when a customer contacts you on social media, respond via the same medium instead of redirecting them to another channel.  Of course, there are occasions (such as a complex support issue or privacy issue) where it makes sense to offer a phone number or email address for further discussion, but always try to stay on the same channel; if he or she has chosen social media as his or her preferred contact mode, you need to respect that choice.  According to a study by eConsultancy, 15% of the 16-24 age group prefers to use social media for customer service.  I suspect the breakout might be similar for other age groups and that it will increase over time.  It is simply so much easier to use social media than other channels.  Social media is here to stay.

Mistake #4: Fail to respond to direct messages: Customers see social media as a personal forum, so don’t be surprised to see posts, tweets and other messages direct at you but broadcasted in a public forum. Responding to these posts should be a top priority – don’t let them get buried under the next fire you need to put out. In fact, you should have a process that allows you to see and prioritize all social media communiques that pose a question or comment on you or your company, whether directly or indirectly.

Mistake #5: Ignore your mistakes: If you do make a mistake on social media (and we all do because “to err is to be human”), you’ll soon know about it – customers are not shy about pointing out gaffes. Don’t ignore this feedback; acknowledge your mistakes and either take corrective action or ask how you can better address the issue.  In customer service, this is known as “service recovery”.   And if done properly, mistakes can even be a great opportunity to show how responsive you can be.  

What have you learned from social media customer engagement? Please share your social media pet peeves and etiquette tips with us.  In fact, we are collaborating with SMT to conduct a survey on the usage of social media to engage with customers.  A result of this survey will be published along with analysis from a couple of leading thinkers on this topic later in the year. 

Learn about how SAP can help with your social media engagement here.

Join The Conversation

  • HansenLieu's picture
    Jun 14 Posted 5 years ago HansenLieu

    Hi Amber,

    Thanks for reading.  Social media is the world stage where the curtain is never closed.  And what participants said or do are permanently visible.

  • ambrking's picture
    Jun 13 Posted 5 years ago ambrking

    Great tips Hansen. It is very important to reply to a customer no matter what medium they use. Almost everyone is active on social media and if businesses plan to engage customers there, they should indeed avoid doing these mistakes.

  • HansenLieu's picture
    Jun 13 Posted 5 years ago HansenLieu

    Hi Erick,

    Thanks for reading the post.  Good point about commenting & replying on blog posts.  One trend I saw is that there is less and less comment on posts these days (perhaps with this post being an exception).  One potential factor is that there so many posts these days compare to 1 or 2 years ago.  It may be a case of "comment fatigue"!



  • Jun 13 Posted 5 years ago MDwebpro (not verified)

    Cool tips. Most people comment on a post and often forget to come back to check if someone replied to their comment. Engaging potential customers is not all about posting a comment but being able to engage in a conversation that generates positive results.


    Erick Kinuthia

    Team MDwebpro

  • HansenLieu's picture
    Jun 13 Posted 5 years ago HansenLieu

    Hi Calvin,

    Thanks for reading.  Yes, the McDonalds case was definitely a good example of what can happen on social media and how organization needs to be ready to address it.

  • Jun 12 Posted 5 years ago calvin_at_identified

    Good article Hansen!

    Social media has brought about transparency with companies. Companies that chose to be involved with social media have to stay involved and continue to engage its fans. Branding is very important and social media can either make or break you. I remember when McDonalds tried to promote their #hashtag #McDStories and it backfired on them. People started telling negative stories about their experiences. It's tough for companies to be seen as more than a brand, but I think your tips are definitely the way to go about it. Social media customer engagement is essential. It can even be a better recruiting tool!

    A little about me, I work for Identified and we do Facebook Recruiting and Employer Solutions. Our latest blog is actually on Facebook recruiting: http://employers.identified.com/blog 


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