reply-to-the-guardianThis morning, The Guardian published an article by Steven Van Belleghem called ‘How to engage positively with customers through social media’.

The article focuses on the smaller business and how they can use social media channels to engage with prospective and existing customers. Van Belleghem raises some great points in this article, the most resonant being the idea of ‘listening’.

Brands in trouble

Too often I speak to brands that set up a Twitter account or LinkedIn account “back in 2010” but have done very little with it since. Needless to say, this is landing brands in trouble, often unearthing stale conversations from years gone past. Consumers are speaking, but no one is listening. It’s the equivalent of calling a customer support number that is closed 24/7. So sure, be active and listen.

Van Belleghem explains, “A consumer can approach you through a number of different channels – email, face-to-face, in a community and so on”. He sets himself up for a really valuable tangent here, but fails to explore the ideas of engagement and tone.

We are so much closer to brands now

Those that read my blogs will know that I’m a huge advocate of analysing brand tone across social media, and I feel the subject needs exploring in The Guardian’s article. He’s right, we’re constantly being exposed to new avenues in which to contact a brand. I remember writing to Kelloggs in the wildly distant nineties to complain that my special pack of Rice Crispies didn’t contain the promised ‘Pog’ (in my defense I was 7). The entire process took months. A little over 10 years later, we’re one Tweet away from speaking to a brand.

So often bloggers, journalists and speakers talk about engagement without mentioning tone. Prior to working in social media, I was an actor after completing a degree in drama (some may call it ‘unemployment’). Perhaps it’s for this reason that the idea of tones underpins everything my team and I do.

Tone is key

In the physical world, tone includes everything from the verbal to the non-verbal. It’s how we as humans interact with one other. I have a favourite barman at my local because he always smiles and looks genuinely interested in what I’m slurring at him. I also have favourite brands on social media because they not only listen, but they engage with me, mirroring my tone.

I’ve talked about mirroring before, and I can’t stress its importance enough. Granted, it’s easier to mirror tone when it’s positive engagement, but equally, we should create our tone not around the comment itself, but around the avenue they used to make contact.

If a consumer chooses to email you, then you can reply with a calculated, professional response. However, if they Tweet you, or even comment on a Facebook status, they are not expecting a proficient response, they are ,however, at the absolute least expecting a swift response. The other important point to make here is that engagement (whether positive or negative) should be dealt with on the originating platform. Message to all brands; if someone Tweets you, please don’t reply with the generic:

Twitter reply

I gave a presentation last week about how the world of social media has moved on. We don’t need to talk about its magnitude anymore, nor do we need to convince brands that it has value.

Brands (that haven’t been hidden under a rock for the last 5+ years) will all know the core functions of social media. It is our job to educate them on the seemingly smaller, yet equally vital aspects of it; engagement yes, but engagement that sets you apart from your competition. Engagement that not only reflects the brand values, but the sentiment of that specific consumer.

Like Van Belleghem says…

…“A good conversation often leads to action”. If this is true, let’s focus on the conversation itself.