Businesses are increasingly using social media and digital marketing to connect with potential customers. But with social media becoming more integrated into our everyday lives, using it to retain your existing customers is also an important practice.
Engaged and happy customers are great assets - they typically become repeat customers and will also help spread the good word about your business, which is particularly relevant given the increased connectivity of the social era..
So how can you use social media to help retain customers? Here are six tips:
1. Personal and genuine interactions
For some strange reason, businesses tend to believe that interacting with customers online is fundamentally different than meeting in a physical setting. However, communication is still communication - people respond positively when you communicate with them in a way that makes them feel connected, appreciated and valued.
As a business, your job is to do right by your customers. Adjust your view from seeing them as numbers on a spreadsheet to seeing your customers as real people with real lives, then approach your interactions with compassion and understanding. That might sound a little touchy-feely, but if you want to be successful then you need to genuinely care about the people on the other side of the screen. Building customer loyalty is as much about their emotional connection to you as it is about your product. We're lucky to have social media as tool to make building and maintaining such connections easier.
2. Keep in touch
Follow and interact with current and former customers. Bear in mind that interactions go two ways - customers reaching out to you and you reaching out to them.
Social media platforms are increasingly becoming biased towards interaction, meaning that a customer liking or following you now doesn't necessarily mean that they will be exposed to your businesses in a month. The best way to combat this is to keep in touch with your customers through social media.
Retweet, comment, like, etc. This can be time consuming, but it's well worth it.
Ensure that your interactions remain positive and genuine.
3. Stay on the ball
A missed message is a lost customer - responding in a timely manner is a core principle of good business.
Just as there are social norms in the physical world, there are social norms online. Customers expect prompt replies - never let more than couple of days go by without responding to a customer request. Ideally you should respond within a few hours, particularly during business hours. If you don't have time for a detailed response immediately, be sure to at least acknowledge the message and give a time frame for a reply.
Educate yourself about interactions on various social media platforms. On social, there's a lot more to worry about than just an inbox.
For example, if a customer reaches out to you on Twitter, they may do it by tagging your Twitter username or sending a DM. On Facebook, they may send a message through your page or leave a comment on one of your posts.
Another huge element in responsiveness is personalization. Don't send out generic sounding messages.
Personalized interactions are a hallmark of great customer service. That doesn't mean you have to spend hours crafting unique responses - which can be overwhelming and waste time - but you do need to include space for the customer's name and be very careful to respond to their specific request.
This goes back to #1 - remember that your customer is a real person and respond to them in the spirit of connection and respect.
4. Ask for feedback
Don't be shy about it - just ask your customers for feedback. People are busy and often forget to go back and write a review, even if they were happy with your service. Often they just need a bit of a nudge to remember to go back and write a review or drop a note to the company.
Be open to all kinds of feedback. While it's great when people tell you about the positive experiences they've had with your company, it's actually much more valuable to you, as a business, to hear the negative experiences. It's through this feedback that you're able to grow and improve.
Make providing feedback easy and remind your customers to provide wherever they can. You might try online polls or even just flat out soliciting feedback messages.
However you do it, you'll get invaluable information that can help drive innovation and improvement.
5. Respond to reviews
Don't just let reviews sit dormant online - always seek to respond. That means responding respectfully and supportively to negative reviews, as well as thanking individuals for positive mentions.
People read reviews - in fact they seek them out. For many customers, the reviews that a company gets on social media are a deciding factor in whether or not they'll use a given product.
The tricky element here is in those negative reviews. Be wary of getting into public battles with unhappy customers in a public forum - you almost always lose. When responding to a negative review, always keep it positive, apologetic and non-confrontational. The best way to do that? Don't respond immediately. If you get a negative review, take your time before spitting out an answer. A few hours will allow your own emotions to cool and your rational mind to kick in.
Offer the customer a solution if you can, perhaps a rebate or a free month of subscription. Make amends publicly.
When you make unhappy customers happy, and others see that, those watchers are going to be much more willing to take a chance on you. Plus a customer who was once unhappy, but whom you've helped to become more satisfied with your company, will generally have an increased sense of loyalty because of your efforts.
6. Share in successes
You and your customers are partners in this venture, and as such, you have the opportunity to share in one another's successes.
When you share in the successes of your customers on social platforms, you're effectively building relationships with them, just as you do in the physical world. Building that relationship online means liking posts from your customers and cheering them on with simple messages. Thank them when they return the favor.
There's no magic to retaining customers using social media, because good business is good business, whether it's on Facebook or in a physical store. The key is to work through your customer interactions with integrity and positivity. If you customers feel valued, they'll return and send new business your way.
Main image via Joe the Goat Farmer