7. RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

1. Be real. Use social media to promote the exchange of real ideas, and participate in the conversation in an authentic way. As Seth Godin once said, networking is always important when it’s real, and it’s always a useless distraction when it’s fake. Solicit feedback from your customers—get a feel for what they want and what matters to them, and respond accordingly.

2. Don’t censor your followers. We do not filter any of our 200,000+ fans that follow us on Facebook (unless they post spam or comments that insult another person). Sometimes this can hurt—people say a lot of things, and are especially emboldened when it’s not face-to-face. But because we let them be honest, they know they can trust us—and they’re incredibly loyal as a result.

3. Don’t pass the buck. My biggest pet peeve is seeing a customer ask a company a question, only to be directed to another point of contact for the answer—creating an extra step for the customer. Social media shouldn’t be used as a stopgap; it’s an opportunity to engage with your customer right then and there. Equip your social media person with the tools and knowledge to respond directly, or let them find out the answer if they don’t know and communicate it with confidence.

4. Find your niche. Sure, having a million followers is great. But what percentage of that group really represents your target customer? It’s your core audience that is most worth engaging via social media. It’s the people who like you from a recommendation from a friend or from your website who truly want to connect with your brand. Zero in on them; talk to them; connect them with each other. Keep the conversation going.

5. Create brand ambassadors. Once you’ve found your niche, develop it! The reality is, you don’t need to convince everyone about your brand; rather, you need to find a few people who are likely to convince others for you. To get them to do this, make sure you’re worth talking about! Take an “under-promise and over-deliver” approach to your offering, and to the service around your offering. Go out of your way to make your customers happy. Deliver outstanding customer service, engage them with relevant promotions and contests and treat them like people rather than customers. Never take a single customer for granted—make them believers in what you do. If those few people are excited about you, they’ll share. Through sharing, commenting and linking, they’ll help you spread your message. And if they don’t? Keep going until you find the ones who will.

Social media has quickly become the face of your business to your consumers, so it’s important for companies to think of it like customer service on steroids. Take the opportunity to show everyone what it’s like to interact and do business with you. Don’t worry about the numbers—worry about making your numbers count!

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