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How to Engage with Your Audience on Social Media

Written by: Ann Smarty

Nov 18, 2020

[Updated 05/10/2023] The power of social media is growing at an unbelievable rate and the smallest of interactions has a serious impact upon brands and businesses. 

We can all think of an instance when you saw a brand respond to a user’s post or inquiry, and it either surprised and delighted or completely horrified you. We’re going to dig into the former and reveal how fewer, quality interactions on social media can reap great rewards from a broader audience.

A classic example of small social interactions done with great intent is from Google. An older British woman submitted a Google query in the politest of ways. Her grandson came upon her search and posted a picture of it on Twitter because of its sweet nature.

This interaction went viral and Twitter users around the world fell in love with the most endearing British grandmother ever and Google. Although short and sweet, Google’s personalized response and attention to detail embodied what the business is about and engendered more positive associations as a result of these two tweets.

Google’s social media manager probably responded to quite a few messages that day, but because this message was hyper personalized and had a sincere tone of voice, it resonated with a large audience. This connection humanized Google, and changed how the public perceives this business giant. The simple response was genuine and propelled the story to travel across social media platforms because it was so heartwarming.

What can you take away from this? A lot. Like the old saying goes, it’s quality over quantity

In the world where the smallest interaction can go viral and either boost or ruin your brand’s image, shouldn’t you be over-careful with how you talk to your customers online?

For a small business, the kind of response that you provide on social media is more important than responding to all mentions or references made to your brand. Social media customer service takes a different type of care and tone than traditional customer service.

Small businesses should handle social responses with a certain finesse in order to make the desired impression on their followers as well as foster an image of an established, knowledgeable, and trustworthy entity to their target audience.

As mentioned before, social responses differ from traditional customer service. For example, not all mentions or references to your small business have direct actions, but engaging with the unique commenters and indirect references on social platforms will garner attention and respect for your business, if done correctly. Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity when you’re aiming for increased user engagement and awareness.

Going back to the grandmother example, this was only one of thousands of social media references Google received on that given day, but look at how that one reply lit an organic social media fire.

Google gained nothing tangible from replying to the grandson’s tweet, but the intangible value of the interaction is what drove viral traffic and cast a broader net to the public. This is what you should strive for when managing your social media reputation management and interactions.

In order to effectively respond to social media mentions, engage the audience, build these social media best practices into your social communications:

Humanize Your Brand

Attach names to your responses, including the person you’re interacting with and your name. Putting a name to a business adds depth and makes the user feel like they’re speaking with a person instead of a robot. 

When a company invests in personalized customer service software, it indicates the value the business places on the customer experience. Integrating advanced inbound call center software becomes a natural extension of this commitment, especially when it’s paired with social media customer service efforts. This minor change can have big implications for your social engagement.

Use Text Optimizer to research current associations with your brand and how your brand is perceived:

Text Optimizer

Respond in a Timely and Comprehensive Manner

Customer service and timely responses go hand-in-hand, but for social media there is another set of rules completely. 

Although social media never sleeps, your employees do. In order to meet your customer’s needs and requests, establish response time expectations, such as when support agents are available.

When you’re on social media, don’t just send a canned response to your followers. Provide thorough replies to their inquiries so they get the feeling the business is actually reading their message and cares about delivering a helpful answer. It is a good idea to use conversational forms to nurture meaningful engagements with your audience.

Listen Even When You Are Not Tagged

Listen to your customers, even when there isn’t a direct request. The aforementioned grandmother example is perfect for this tenet.

Nothing was directly asked, but Google answered the grandmother’s initial question and created a relationship with the grandson. The conversation went viral and positively impacted many consumers’ opinions about Google.

Social media automation tools have proved to be very helpful in reducing first response time and improving the customer experience

Awario, for example, is a great social listening platform allowing you to capture important conversations thanks to its boolean search support letting you combine all kinds of search queries into one alert.

Curate Positive Feedback

Customer feedback provides brands with lots of opportunities to build a positive brand image and grow customer loyalty.

From showcasing happy customers on your website to using their feedback in your ad copy – there are lots of ways to utilize social proof in your marketing.

Venngage allows you to easily turn social proof into engaging social media graphics. Just pick a template and edit it to use your visual branding elements and your customers’ words. The tool allows you to create both graphic and video ads which you resize in bulk to fit multiple social media platforms.

Social media graphics

When embedding social media reviews on your site, don’t forget that Google cannot often access certain types of javascript, so if you want your social proof to be indexed, use plain text.

There are also quite a few WordPress plugins allowing you to showcase your brand’s social proof on your site.

It is also a good idea to use social proof to improve the performance of your lead magnets. You can generate more leads by showing your prospects positive feedback from your current customers.

Monitor Brand Mentions

Monitor your brand name mentions, replies, retweets, and comments to see how the public is talking about your business. It is a tactical way to applaud those who love your brand, and a seamless way to diffuse a negative review and ultimately turn a bad experience into a favorable one.

You never know which interactions will go viral, but if you use your gut, treat your customers and prospective customers with respect and consideration, your thoughtfully written messages will go much farther than a generic reply.

Take these tips to heart and show your genuine personality to your subscribers. They’ll appreciate the honest tone and responses while your business will gain credibility and more followers. It’s a win-win, so what are you waiting for?

About Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty is the co-founder of Smarty Marketing as well as the founder of Viral Content Bee. Ann has been into Internet Marketing for over a decade, she is the former Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Journal and contributor to prominent search and social blogs including Small Biz Trends and Mashable. Ann is also the frequent speaker at Pubcon and the host of a regular Twitter chat #vcbuzz.