Social Media: If You Start Talking, Be Prepared to Listen

One characteristic that I truly appreciate about social media is that it can open a direct line of communication between customers and a business. Questions, complaints, praises - whatever the reason for interaction - can be accomplished easily and quickly via social media channels (sure beats the mind-numbing process of going through a phone tree). Yet, there is one important caveat that too many brands with a social media presence fail to understand: If you start talking, you must be prepared to listen.

Social media expert Steve Olenski goes so far as to say that failure to listen and respond to customer-initiated communications on social networking sites is the number one mistake that retail brands make. Olenski cites statistics revealing that although 90% of the top 50 retailers have a presence on Twitter, only 29% use the platform to actually engage in communications with customers and others. The problem according to Olenski is a mindset of "set it and forget it." In other words, more thought goes into establishing a social media presence than developing objectives and strategies for social media. He points out that setting up a Twitter account for a business then failing to respond to people who interact with your brand would be like opening a call center but not answering the telephone. It would be a waste of resources and harmful to brand image to ignore ringing telephones; failure to acknowledge or respond to posts on social networking sites potentially has the same effect.

For most businesses, the question to ask is not whether to have a social media presence - the answer is usually "yes." The more pressing issue is once you decide to establish a presence for your brand on Twitter, Pinterest, Google + or any other social network, you must be ready to listen. It is like throwing open the doors to your business, inviting people inside to interact with you. You would not leave your business unstaffed when customers are coming in, so why would you invite interaction on social networks without a plan for sustaining the interactions?

When it comes to social media as a marketing channel, listening trumps talking. Be willing to listen, assign sufficient human resources to make listening happen, and empower your listeners to resolve problems or concerns.

Forbes - "The Number One Mistake Retail Brands Make When it Comes to Twitter"

Labels: ,