Social Media Engagement: Building a Community

True joy results when we become aware of our connectedness to everything.

Paul Pearsall

Social media users know the difference between a brand that engages with its consumers and one that doesn’t. Of those that engage, these social media interactions can make or break the associations that consumers have about your brand – positive or negative.

Although it may seem that negative interactions may have more lasting impacts, positive engagements can go further than you may think. In fact, these positive experiences can build a community of extremely devoted customers, who may be quite outspoken in their loyalty.

Here’s a personal example that I love to share:

I was once on a Southwest Airlines flight to San Francisco with a short layover in Los Angeles. While I was on the flight to LA, I received a courtesy text message notification that my flight to San Francisco had been canceled.

I started to panic. My mother and I were meeting in San Francisco for a weekend together, and I was afraid the trip was ruined. What if I couldn’t get there?

Since I was cruising at 10,000 feet, I couldn’t call Southwest to help me. I wasn’t able to rebook a new flight in my app. I had one option left: I bought the $8 in-flight WiFi service and sent a desperate direct message to Southwest on Twitter.

Within 45 minutes, a social media agent had responded, apologized for the inconvenience, booked me on the next available flight from LA to San Francisco, and checked me in for that flight.

By the time I touched the ground – as other passengers arrived to the news that their ongoing flight had been canceled and took their places in line at the customer service desk – I was ready to continue my journey, stress-free.

This happened more than three years ago, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spoken about Southwest’s fantastic customer service and recommended them to others. With that service they provided to me, they converted me into a fan for life.

Though not all brands are in industries that can provide that kind of save-the-day service, social media engagement can still go a long way with your target audience to create a community of loyal customers.

Here are some best practices when it comes to social media engagement.

1. Respond in an appropriate timeframe for your business.

According to a study by Lithium Technologies, 53% of social media users who tweet at a brand expect to receive a response within one hour; 72% expect that response in the same timeframe if it’s a complaint. This is especially true with time-sensitive issues such as a delayed or canceled flight.

However, if you’re like us and have a specialized industry – like industrial brands – a prompt response would most likely not be expected by your audience. If they’re asking a highly technical question about a piece of equipment, you as a social media manager may not be equipped to answer that question. In that case, it’s best to post an acknowledgement of the question and then get in contact with a specialist who can answer the question.

In these cases, don’t worry about speed – the quality of response is more important.

2. Talk with your audience, not at them.

Most young people – Millennials and Generation Z – don’t like being targeted by brands. They’d rather engage with you on their own terms. This is where alternative channels for content creation, such as blog posts, can be beneficial. Provide this audience with useful information without expecting anything in return, and you’ll gain their trust organically.

3. Share the good stuff.

When your consumers are happy and tag you in their social media posts, share it on your own channels! It’s basically free advertising. Whether it’s selfies with LOESCHE Mills or an excited customer that just received a long-anticipated delivery, sharing this consumer-created content shows that you care and you’re celebrating their positive experiences with them.

4. Don’t censor your users.

Some social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, allow a brand to delete other users’ comments from their page. But the internet was meant for the freedom of expression, so instead of deleting a negative comment, think again about the best way to handle the issue. While not everyone may have the experience with your brand that you’re hoping for, attempting to silence those users reflects badly on your credibility.

5. Be authentic.

Some brands – particularly fast-food chains – have recently gone viral for their quick-witted humor and sarcastic clapbacks to consumers and other brands on social media. While some might enjoy this kind of social presence, others feel it gives an air of inauthenticity and “trying too hard.”

Remember to stay true to your brand’s voice. Consistency is important, and while your brand’s personality and tone may evolve over time, customers need to feel like they “know” you in order to feel a strong sense of loyalty.

Our world has always been about connectedness, and today’s technology allows us to connect in a different way, on a larger scale than ever before. By putting in the work to streamline your social media content efforts and engage with your consumers, everyone involved is able to benefit from this new form of connection – a true online community.

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