Relationships are hard work. Even the most perfect ones require time, effort, and commitment to thrive. When it comes to building relationships online, the same principles apply. Authentic relationships are the foundation of a strong social media community. Invest in them, and the return will be worth every bit of time and effort.
It can be easy to forget that behind every handle is a living, breathing person and approach relationship building from a numbers perspective—number of followers, number of likes, number of retweets. While these numbers are important, they are not necessarily indicative of authentic relationships. To cultivate genuine connections that lead to real results, approach social media relationships the same way you approach real life relationships.
Communication is a two-way street. While it’s important to share messages about your products and services, it’s even more important to put down your social media bullhorn and listen to your customers. In the world of social media, this is called social listening, and it is one of the best ways to bolster loyalty. Actively listening to your customers humanizes your brand. It shows customers you genuinely care about their concerns and are taking steps to improve your products or services based on their feedback. It also provides you with important insights. What are people saying about your product or service? If there is a concern you are hearing again and again, it’s probably indicative of a larger problem.
As millennial consumers ourselves, we often turn to brands’ social media communities when we encounter problems with their products or services. In our experience, this comes from a place of brand loyalty. When a company is quick to acknowledge and fix our problem, it reinforces our brand loyalty, fosters trust, and improves our overall sentiment towards the brand. When a brand is slow to acknowledge or resolve our issue, it leaves us feeling neglected and jeopardizes loyalty.
Try New Things Together
Even happy couples can get stuck in a rut. If you feel like your relationship is getting stale, don’t be afraid to try new things. If pictures are your go-to content type, experiment with videos or gifs. If lifestyle images are no longer hitting home with your audience, post some product focused pictures. It can be tempting to use social to push promotions, products, and services, but over-promotional content tends to deter users. Encourage engagement by sprinkling in some posts that are funny, cheeky and unpromotional. Denny’s has earned a huge following by putting humour before promotion.
Go the Extra Mile
It’s important to make every fan feel like they’re the only girl customer in the world. Make your followers feel special by personalizing comments and avoiding stock responses. This can be as simple as including a customer’s name in your response or having community managers sign off messages and replies with their own name. This creates a human connection and lets the customer know you care about their specific concern (even if it’s a complaint you’ve addressed ten times that day.)
When opportunity arises, use social to shine a light on times your team went out of their way to make a customer happy. The Avalon Hotel in Gothenburg Sweden turned a lost teddy bear into a viral sensation when they used social media to reunite it with its owner—sharing pictures of the bear enjoying the hotel’s amenities on social media until it was claimed. Not only did the campaign highlight the hotel’s exceptional customer service, it made a little girl’s day.
When we apply these basic relationship tips to social media, we almost always see increases in follower retention, improved brand sentiment, and higher engagement rates. Social media may have changed our medium of communication, but our method has remained the same. Digital relationships are still human relationships. Treat them as such, and your brand’s social community will thrive. As marketing guru, Angela Ahrendts famously said, “I grew up in a physical world, and I speak English. The next generation is growing up in a digital world, and they speak social.”