More than ever, your business’s social media presence and brand identity are one and the same. An overwhelming 80% of consumers expect retail companies to interact with them via social media, and 68% see social platforms as a direct line of communication with brands.
Community management is a strategy for engaging with consumers in online spaces. It’s no longer enough to use social media to broadcast information about your products and business developments. Increasingly, shoppers see Facebook, Instagram and TikTok as an expression of your brand’s personality, an educational tool and a means of contacting customer service all at once.
If you want to join in on these global, round-the-clock conversations, you’ll need to come armed with a plan. Avoid these common pitfalls, and social media can be your most powerful tool for connecting with your audience, broadening your reach and building brand trust.
1. Being antisocial
Social media is a conversation, not a billboard. Building a community of brand loyalists requires two-way communication.
In the same way that it’s easier to talk to friendly people, the way that you engage with your audience early on will determine whether or not they feel comfortable taking the next step. Your social media presence is valuable proof that you are helpful, approachable and responsive if any issues arise.
Thank your followers, troubleshoot complaints or concerns and be available. Social media is many shoppers’ first point of contact with your brand, and therefore your most powerful tool for early rapport-building.
2. Forgetting a call-to-action
No one likes to talk to someone who only talks about themselves. Undiluted self-promotion is off-putting for consumers and ineffective for conversions.
When posting, think about your short and long-term goals. What do you want your audience to do next, and how do you want them to feel after your interaction? The simplest way to keep the conversation going is to create an opportunity for potential customers to respond.
Light up the comments section by including a relevant question in your post. Everyone enjoys sharing their experiences and opinions when they feel truly welcome to do so. Whether your objective is to boost engagement, grow your distribution list or encourage shoppers to make a purchase, make taking that next step as easy as possible. A clear, simple-to-execute call-to-action (CTA) is the key to moving your audience towards your goal.
3. Only monitoring your notifications
It’s certainly important to know if a comment, question or direct message is waiting for your response. However, only checking your business account’s notifications can cause you to miss out on critical community conversations.
Keep tabs on industry hashtags and keywords to learn what people are saying not just to you, but also about you (and your product category as a whole). Your personal brand sentiment is important, but so is industry sentiment. Not only can you learn from this higher-level monitoring, but you’ll also discover opportunities to join conversations already in progress and start completely new ones. These authentic, organic interactions are tremendously important for cementing your brand’s reputation within your category.
4. Deleting negative comments
The saying that all publicity is good publicity is at least partly true, even for your business account. Disparaging social media comments may not feel good, but they are a sign that your audience is willing to engage with your brand.
As tempting as it can be to delete negative comments, this practice is ill-advised. It’s inauthentic, sneaky, and can escalate problems that were otherwise easily resolved. Instead, turn negativity into an opportunity to educate your audience, demonstrate empathy and open the lines of communication. If a comment is inaccurate, provide a detailed response that includes resources for clearing up the misunderstanding. If it’s about a bad personal experience, don’t be combative. Acknowledge the comment and offer to resolve the issue off of social media.
5. Taking too long to respond
Today’s digital consumer is short on patience. The rise of the on-demand economy has trained us all to expect fast answers to our questions and quick resolutions to our problems, especially when we’re taking a chance on a new product.
Even if your brand presents the perfect solution to a potential consumer’s problem, they will move on quickly if they feel ignored. Different industries and categories will have different expectations for what constitutes a timely response, but generally, it’s best practice not to let messages and mentions go unaddressed for more than 48 hours.
A two-day response window is often generous enough to allow small businesses to handle their social media interactions without having to pour resources into monitoring, but be sensitive to your audience’s feedback and adjust your target response time accordingly.
6. Chasing trends
Your social media presence should always be consistent with the rest of your branding. Viral TikTok challenges and popular hashtags may seem like a fast route to more followers, but only if they are a good fit for your brand’s unique personality and voice.
Social media has become so ubiquitous largely because it addresses consumers’ desire for authenticity. Recycled content and canned responses will quickly undermine the work you’re doing to foster a digital community.
Develop a tone of voice guide that is an extension of your existing brand resources. Crafting response templates for frequently asked questions is great, but don’t copy-paste. Instead, keep your interactions human-centered and personal at all times.
7. Isolating your social media learnings
Social media is an often-underutilized data-gathering tool. Learn from these direct consumer interactions: What is your audience asking for? What compliments do they give you? What would they like to see more of, and where are you falling short?
The insights you glean from your social media engagements have value for virtually every area of your business, from messaging strategy to product development.
Social media learnings can also help create a more consistent customer service experience. Once you’ve set a standard for response times and engagement on social platforms, it’s important to continue to meet these expectations as you troubleshoot problems.
8. Failing to set goals
Most businesses with a social media presence have established KPIs, but community management is a frequently-overlooked measure of success.
Set goals specific to your community management strategy. Go beyond clicks and impressions and consider metrics related to your relationship with consumers. Your engagement rate, average response time and audience growth are all important data points to consider as you work to cultivate positive consumer sentiment.
Measurable, time-sensitive objectives are the only way to gauge the effectiveness of your community management in the context of your broader social media marketing goals. Openness, empathy and authenticity may seem like abstract targets, but over time they will yield quantifiable results for your brand.