Over the past few years, social media has presented itself as more than just a tool for small businesses. Now, it’s a necessity for consumer engagement. Customers expect to be able to connect with the brands they love on social media channels. They like the option of an open dialogue and want brands to be able to follow through on these platforms.

Sometimes, though, no matter how hard you've been trying, you aren’t seeing results with consumer engagement on social media. Maybe your efforts aren’t providing the returns you were hoping for. Or, possibly, the response so far has been negative. Whatever your situation, today we will be taking a look at consumer engagement in social media and how you can use your brand to create a positive experience for customers.

1. Know Your Audience

Before you begin crafting messages or responses to messages, it’s important to have an idea of who you’re talking to. This comes along with research. What can you learn from your customers based on other brands they interact with on social media? What drew them to your business in the first place? If you can get a sense of the kind of content they enjoy, you will know how to interact with them in the space.

It may also be useful to implement buyer personas as a means for really getting to know your customers. Get a sense for their thinking so that when the time comes for consumer engagement, you can wow them with your branding and messaging.

2. Be Where the Conversation Is

It can be disheartening trying to find a business you love on a certain platform, only to find out that they don’t have an account. This goes along with knowing your audience. Get a sense for where people are talking about you and then be present in that space.

“Present” here goes beyond simply having an account. Have a posting schedule to make sure followers are regularly seeing content from you. Join in on conversations by liking and sharing others’ content and following brands that you support. Not only will this make you more visible to your audience, it will also make you knowledgeable about the current trends happening in your field. It will set you up nicely to have time-relevant conversations with your customers, while also connecting you with the larger online community.

3. Respond to Comments in a Timely Manner

When customers do add comments to your posts or message you, be sure to respond swiftly. According to an article by Sprout Social, 79% of audience members will expect a response to a message within 24 hours. A prompt answer will show customers that they are valued and that you want their voice to be heard.

Practice Thoughtful Consumer Engagement

While we all agree that it’s important to treat everyone with care and respect on social media, sometimes it’s good to take a step back and a deep breath before responding to certain comments. With the amount of anonymity that social media brings, people sometimes feel comfortable saying nasty things to and about your business.

When this happens, it’s best to take a beat to think. Still be as prompt as possible, but a thoughtful response may be more helpful than what you are thinking in the moment.

It might be good to first consider whether it is worth responding at all. Sometimes Internet “trolls” will try to start controversy for no apparent reason, putting you in a difficult position. Or sometimes people will be genuinely dissatisfied with something and will be looking for you to handle it. Your challenge comes in knowing which is which and finding the best way to connect with that person.

No matter the different things people might be saying to and about your business online (both positive and negative), it’s important to be thoughtful in your consumer engagement. Always ask yourself if what you’re saying could be seen as harmful in any way. It’s better to give comments and responses one more read-through to make sure you are understanding the situation in its entirety and responding appropriately.

4. Review Consumer Engagements and Learn As You Go

One important thing to remember is that social media is constantly changing, along with the needs and expectations of your target audience. Learn from what has worked for your brand in the past and try to replicate it as authentically as possible. On the flip side, if something fell flat, don’t be afraid to admit it and re-adapt so you don’t make the same mistake again.

Along with this, don’t hesitate to ask your followers what they want to see from you. This can be done with a simple poll on your social media accounts, through a newsletter or email list, or even in a survey. This will help customers feel more engaged with your brand and like they have a stake in your business. It is an excellent way to foster brand loyalty.

Sometimes, it can feel intimidating trying to practice thoughtful consumer engagement on social media. The odd negative comment can be very hurtful and may make you hesitant to implement a customer engagement strategy. However, knowing what your customers will love and interact with comes with research and experience. You’ll know what’s best for your brand.

At Vervology, we love helping small businesses with their social media strategy. Get in touch with us if you have questions or are interested in starting a partnership.