The power of social media is growing at an unbelievable rate and the smallest of interactions has serious impact upon brands and businesses. We can all think of an instance when you saw a brand respond to a user’s post or inquiry, and it either surprised and delighted or completely horrified you. We’re going to dig into the former and reveal how fewer, quality interactions on social media can reap great rewards from a broader audience.

A recent example of small social interactions done with great intent is from Google. An older British woman submitted a Google query in the politest of ways. Her grandson came upon her search and posted a picture of it on Twitter tweet because of its sweet nature:

Polite grandma google screen shot

image via Mashable

Google saw the tweet and the grandmother’s query, and responded with these messages:

Google response to polite grandma

image via Mashable

This interaction went viral and Twitter users around the world fell in love with the most endearing British grandmother ever and Google. Although short and sweet, Google’s personalized response and attention to detail embodied what the business is about and engendered more positive associations as a result of these two tweets. Google’s social media manager probably responded to quite a few messages that day, but because this message was hyper-personalized and had a sincere tone of voice, it resonated with a large audience. This connection humanized Google, and changed how the pubic perceives this business giant. The simple response was genuine and propelled the story to travel across social media platforms because it was so heartwarming.

What can you take away from this? A lot. Like the old saying goes, it’s quality over quantity. For a small business, the kind of response that you provide on social media is more important than responding to all mentions or references made to your brand. Social media customer service takes a different type of care and tone than traditional customer service. Small business should handle social responses with a certain finesse in order to make the desired impression on their followers as well as foster an image of an established, knowledgeable, and trustworthy entity to their target audience.

As mentioned before, social responses differ from traditional customer service. For example, not all mentions or references to your small business have direct actions, but engaging with the unique commenters and indirect references on social platforms will garner attention and respect for your business, if done correctly. Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity when you’re aiming for increased user engagement and awareness.

Going back to the grandmother example, this was only one of thousands of social media references Google received on that given day, but look at how that one reply lit an organic social media fire. Google gained nothing tangible from replying to the grandson’s tweet, but the intangible value of the interaction is what drove viral traffic and cast a broader net to the public. This is what you should strive for when managing your social media reputation management and interactions.

In order to effectively respond to fewer social media mentions, but engage the masses, build these three social media best practices into your social communications:

Humanize Your Brandattach names to your responses, including the person you’re interacting with and your name. Putting a name to a business adds depth and makes the user feel like they’re speaking with a person instead of a robot. When a company invests in personalized customer service, it indicates the value the business places on the customer experience. This minor change can have big implications for your social engagement.

Respond in a timely and comprehensive manner – Customer service and timely responses go hand-in-hand, but for social media there is another set of rules completely. Although social never sleeps, your employees do. In order to meet your customer’s needs and requests, establish response time expectations, such as when support agents are available.

When you’re on social media, don’t just send a canned response to your followers. Provide thorough replies to their inquiries so they get the feeling the business is actually reading their message and cares about delivering a helpful answer.

Listen to your customers, even when there isn’t a direct request – the aforementioned grandmother example is perfect for this tenet. Nothing was directly asked, but Google answered the grandmother’s initial question and created a relationship with the grandson. The conversation went viral and positively impacted many consumers’ opinions about Google.

Monitor your mentions, replies, retweets, and comments to see how the public is talking about your business. It is a tactical way to applaud those who love your brand, and a seamless way to diffuse a negative review and ultimately turn a bad experience into a favorable one.

You never know which interactions will go viral, but if you use your gut, treat your customers and prospective customers with respect and consideration, your thoughtfully written messages will go much farther than a generic reply. Take these tips to heart and show your genuine personality to your subscribers. They’ll appreciate the honest tone and responses while your business will gain credibility and more followers. It’s a win-win, so what are you waiting for?