Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Conversations with your customers & audience through social media - Why you need to be engaged

I know I am treading on already discussed ground, but since I recently saw examples of communication failures by companies and organizations around their social media conversations, I guess it does not hurt to look at this topic again.

Recently I cut my 8 inches of my hair to donate to Patene Beautiful Lengths program.  The program takes hair donations and creates human hair wigs for women cancer patients.  Most people are familiar with Locks of Love, another great program, but their donations go to wigs for children.

Now, it took me around 5 months to get my hair to the desired length, I had a pretty good start on it. I don’t tell you this because I want to brag about myself, but to illustrate a point.  A lot of time and effort went into this endeavor, as well as lot of conditioner!  When I told people about my plans, almost everyone asked me if I was donating to Locks of Love. I chose Beautiful Lengths for two reasons, they only require 8 inches of hair versus 10 inches for Locks and I like that the hair goes to women.

This is the second time I have made this donation. I did it about 7 years ago, before social media was a thing. Beautiful Lengths is not as well known as Locks of Love, even seven years later. This time when I visited the website to find the address to send my donation, I notice they had a hashtag.  Being the good social media person I am, I knew I would Instagram, Tweet and Facebook my transformation and maybe get a couple of women to think about a donation of their own.

A bunch of pictures were taken of the actual cutting process and of course of picture of the final product, and I was good to go. My hairdresser is on Instagram and of course I gave her a shout out.  She responded on my post. Nothing from Patene.  I posted on Facebook so my friends were not too surprised of my new look. I received a lot of likes and comments. I posted on Twitter. More likes from friends.

But total silence from Patene.  Think of the conversation they could have had with me.  Besides a thank you, we could have discussed how easy it was to grow, what a great experience it was, why did I do this, how much conditioner I used.  The company is doing a great thing by spearheading this initiative.  They have a great web presence, but if people do not know about the program, how many donations of hair will they get.  I had a story to tell and they missed out on the conversation.

I contrast this with two experiences I had in my business life. The first is at Chariot Solutions.  My marketing assistant posted a picture of one of our employees dogs with a cute saying and the #officedog.  We are trying a campaign to attract employees by showing our culture.  Imagine our surprise when Purina, retweeted the photo, with a new caption.  It was a fun way to engage with us and our audience in an unexpected way.  The photo was then taken by one of the dog’s owners and put on Facebook for an extended reach.

The last is about the non-profit I lead, TechGirlz.  I manage the twitter account, I still can’t let that go. We get a decent amount of mentions and retweets.  Most of the time, I am retweeting or liking others posts, but there are many times when I am answering a question or participating in a group conversation.  Recently, I had to answer one of our parent’s questions and their disappointment about their child not being able to get into one of our TechShopz.  After a little cyber stalking, I realized I had a chance to appeal to him to be a potential teacher.  We had a good conversation on twitter, which drove home the point that TechGirlz has too much demand and not enough instructors. 

Our conversation allowed him to understand why his daughter was not able to get a spot and convinced him to help us out! Without engaging him, this never would have happened.

These are just examples using Twitter. Knowing that there are multiple social media outlets can make this daunting, but having a plan, a process and a "voice" to your responses and engagement should help.

Some items you might want to consider:
-How time sensitive do you want to be in your responses?  A product or service that is needed by your customer may need you to monitor your notifications more often
-Does your social team need advice from experts in your organization before they answer?
-Can you create stock answers to frequently asked questions?

Do you have other suggestions?