How and why to engage with your online community

A ‘community manager’ is more than just a new title we give to millennials, it’s an invaluable role within today’s digital marketing industry. All over the world community managers are controlling the perception of brands from Coca Cola and Apple to the local pizza place down the road by being the first port of engagement with their customers on social media. In this article we unpack why we need them and why it’s important to engage with your online audience at all touchpoints.

Gone are the days when a customer needed to go to a physical store to speak to a sales consultant or phone a toll-free line to get the information they wanted about a product. Now the lines of communication have been blown wide open with the opportunity for brands to have a presence on a number of social media platforms. And with this, has come the need for businesses to have a clear strategy on how and when they respond to customers on these platforms.

Big brands who put resources behind community management and are able to respond to queries/ comments/ messages as they come in are strides ahead of those who can’t. The customer of tomorrow is demanding. They have choices with regard to who they buy from, and they will take their money to a brand that does it better. It sounds extreme, but business credibility now depends on how quickly and how well you can respond to your customer on social media.

The stats show that 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others. Already in 2015, Facebook influenced over 50% of consumers’ online and offline purchases, and 78% of people who complained to a brand via Twitter expected a response within an hour (source: Lithium).

And it’s not only social media; in fact, a 2019 Google Consumer Survey of 1 500 respondents found that more than 80% of people who contacted a brand via email expected a response the same day; only 3% believed that they might not get a response at all.

Those are pretty scary stats, but with a good strategy and some knowledge, businesses can use these platforms to shoot their brand image through the clutter and make a name for themselves in the world. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Respond to every enquiry or comment timeously, no matter how simple
  • Train your community manager on your brand personality and tone (or better yet, create a comprehensive brand guide if you don’t have one already)
  • Use template replies to save time and ensure the right information is communicated, but try to personalise the message slightly each time.
  • Know your product, and be able to tell the customer exactly where to find the info they’re looking for (preferably a link to your website)
  • Give realistic deadlines, don’t say you’re open for enquiries 24/7 if you’re not
  • Embrace your top fans (using Facebook’s handy tool) and engage with good experiences as well as bad
  • Create a report each month, and monitor whether the sentiment is becoming increasingly positive, or if there is a particular negative backlash or issue that needs to be dealt with

Remember, you don’t know what’s going on in a customer’s head, they may be a very loyal brand enthusiast and post about one bad experience on social media. If their complaint is not responded to, or worse, the reply is not helpful or aligned with the brand’s tone, then you may lose what could have been a brand ambassador for life.

Keep your customers happy by creating a space for them to feel appreciated and taken care of, and they’ll keep coming back to you again and again.

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