How to interact with current and potential customers through social media

Social media is a way for you to hear from current and potential customers. It’s important to have a social media presence to find out what they are saying about you but also so other people can see and get to know your company.

The arrival of social media has revolutionized the relationship between companies and their clients—and that's putting it mildly. And yet, some owners of SMEs still question the value of such networks. First, social media lets you listen to your customers. There are definitely people out there talking about your company, product or service, people who would like to know what you provide, as well as people who don't even know you exist. It's important to have a social media presence to find out what people are saying about you but also so people can see and get to know your company. You will build your community gradually as your network of current and potential customers “Like” your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter and Instagram and so on.

Receive criticism

Does social media sometimes scare you? You probably dread users criticizing or complaining publicly about your company or your products and services. Dissatisfied customers turn to social media to show their displeasure. But, barring a major incident, you shouldn't receive too many complaints, and it will be easy for you to respond to them. It's better to be present on social media networks to propose a solution than to let bad news spread.

The vast majority of dissatisfied customers will never use your services or purchase your products again. As a result, criticism may prompt you to make improvements so that dissatisfied customers decide to remain loyal to your brand rather than leave you permanently. Remember that an unhappy customer will talk to 12 people about their experience, while a customer whose problem was resolved will tell 20 people about their positive experience. Even though a part of the problem must be settled in private, publicly offering to speak to any unhappy customers about their issues will improve the public's opinion of your company.

Manage your brand and keep your customers

By monitoring social media networks, you can record customer comments and evaluate your company's image. But be sure to monitor the right networks. Determine where your current and potential customers are (e.g., Facebook or Twitter) and be there! Once you have established a presence, you can begin to build your community. It's up to you to act wisely to win over potential customers or get the word out about your products. You don't need to dedicate 20 hours each week to social media. Begin with 1 hour sessions to read comments about your company, build your community and manage your brand. Above all, answer questions to show your community that you are actually listening.

Facebook for finding potential customers

Visit the pages of companies offering similar or complementary products and services. If the pages allow posts, you can see feedback from people who like them and who are interested in your competitors' offers. The interactions probably contain valuable information for you. Use Facebook's search engine to find pages that are pertinent to your field and read the comments members post.

Twitter for finding potential customers and listening to current ones

Twitter is a fantastic monitoring tool with an advanced search engine to find tweets in the industry and language of your choice. Simply search for the keywords that interest you and interact with the people who criticize a topic, show an interest in it or ask about it. Learn more about Twitter's advanced search.

Google Alerts for finding out what's being said about you

Use this handy, free tool from Google to receive emails containing all the articles published in the fields you are interested in. By creating an alert with the name of your company, you will be informed as soon as your company is criticized or praised. That way, you can respond faster to handle dissatisfied customers or to thank admirers. Learn more about Google Alerts.

Start, participate in and encourage conversation

Social media networks are platforms for sharing, discussion and conversation, which is what your community expects. Communication must go both ways. You can talk about your company, but you must also listen to your customers and your community, forge and maintain ties with them, and thank and reward them as necessary. All business relationships are built on trust. Your actions or interactions on social media networks are also opportunities to build trust. To do this, be sure to:

  • not just talk about yourself and your brand; talk about your commitments, your employees and your organization's values
  • ask open-ended questions to encourage your community to talk about and respond to your posts
  • avoid automatic reposting; always add context to your posts
  • vary your questions, comments and topics of interest across different platforms

People are becoming increasingly interested in the human side of companies. They like to see who is behind the brand. Social media is an excellent tool for sharing pictures of employees at work or events with your community. You can gain consumers' trust by showing the friendly side of your company, increasing their chances of purchasing your product. Don't be afraid to surprise, entertain, question, offer benefits and hold contests. They are all ways of encouraging your community to talk about you more and to share information you post with their own communities.

Above all, be honest! Transparency is essential, but that doesn't mean you have to reveal everything. Also, be prepared to acknowledge your faults, if necessary. Remember that on social media, lies and double-dealing are quickly found out. You will build trust and gain recognition because of your honesty, integrity and transparency.

Demonstrate your expertise and never leave an opening for the competition

A good way to speak with your community and promote your company is by demonstrating your expertise. Offer advice, tips and solutions to problems in your field. Make your experts visible and have them speak with your community. Be on the look-out for your competition's strategies and never leave them an opening. If you are absent or silent, they could create relationships with your current and potential clients.

Use keywords to improve your SEO

By increasing your online presence (without exaggerating, of course) and facilitating content sharing, you'll obtain better search engine rankings. Using keywords will also increase your visibility. Before publishing content, think about what your current and potential customers are likely to type into a search engine like Google. Use those keywords in the titles and content of your posts.

Today no company can ignore social media. It has become a powerful marketing and brand management tool where promotion, solicitation and direct selling is giving way to sharing, discussion and dialogue, the foundation of businesses' relationships with their communities. That's why it is essential that you establish your presence on social media networks and manage it so that your strategy profits both your company and your community. Remember that you have established a relationship with your community and that you must maintain it. There's no going back now. Once you join social media networks, you should be there to stay.