A company I was looking at recently was intending to increase their social media interaction on their main site. From an SEO perspective this seems like a good idea. After all, Google is taking social interaction into account in it’s ranking algorithms. I was all for the idea on first hearing it. I asked the question “why do you want to do this?” anyway because I always do. The answer was simply that they thought that social media was the thing to do and they wanted to attract younger customers.
What was quickly apparent though was that there was no plan behind this. It was to be a case of “build it and they will come”. That’s a mistake.
It got worse. I had a look at their current facebook page. Other than inane posts from the company it was jam packed full of complaints that had not been dealt with well. The standard way of dealing with these seemed to be to ask the user to send a private message or to call customer service. The problem was that a lot of the complaints were actually about customer service or a lack of response to private messages. The reality was that the company had big problems to fix and adding exposure to those problems on their main website would be more likely to lose customers than gain them. In fact, even if they sort out the problems with customer service, social media may not ever be a good idea for them.
If people stay in a good hotel they will give it a good review. If people have a good meal they will write positive things about it online. If you are a lawyer, sell car insurance, or install water meters nobody is ever going to say anything nice about you. Not ever.
A social media presence needs to be thought out. You need to treat it like you would any form of advertising initially, seeking out your target audience and deciding what message you want to give or what you want to achieve. Just doing it because everybody else is does not make sense.
You need to know your market, you need to anticipate problems and you need to be able to visibly deal with them when problems do arise… and they will. You also need to be able to do that instantly. This is particularly true if you are a large company. That means having dedicated staff that are trained to deal with customers, the general public and trolls on hand pretty much 24 / 7.
Did I mention training? Your front line social media staff MUST be trained to deal with complaints far better than anybody else in the company. A badly handled complaint on the phone is at least limited to that customer and everybody they can tell about their experience (including online). A badly handled complaint online can be truly catastrophic with residual references to it for years and years.
Rant of the day over.