Friday, 09 July 2010 14:42

Customer service via Social Media

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Almost exactly two years ago, dp dialogue posted a punishing article, raking Optus over the coals for their total lack of social media presence during an unfolding outage that affected thousands.

Since that time Optus, and many other major companies along with them, have completely overhauled their communication strategies.

Social media has become such a prominent method for consumers to discuss brands that it is now the case that you cannot afford to be without a strategy for monitoring and responding to your fans and detractors online.

How did Optus change to reflect the need to address customer service socially?

  1. They meet their customers where they 'live'

    A recent complaint I made on Whirlpool (Australia's foremost broadband/telecommunications forum) was met with a response by an Optus representative within 30 minutes. This is not an official channel, but this is where complaints get made - so Optus is there.

  2. They actively search for hashtags associated with their brand

    Hashtags are how common threads are found on Twitter. If you want to complain about Optus, just use #badoptus in your tweet and it will automatically become a link that aggregates all other posts with the same hashtag. This post from 2009, just weeks after Optus launched their official Twitter page, shows how Optus representatives quickly tracked down users with complaints and attempted to resolve their issues.

  3. They actively engage via their Facebook page

    Optus does everything right with their Facebook page, with nearly 14,000 fans Liking them. Optus never use Facebook to post dry, boring commercial content - their posts are topical, customer oriented and nearly always include a call to action to encourage participation. Most importantly, they respond to every comment and are active in promoting their fans.

A recent post on the Small Business Forum highlighted just how effective this kind of social media activity can be - and how happy it makes customers, at least in part due to our expectation that big business just doesn't work this way.

Optus are serious about embracing social media - just look at their lineup of speakers from a 2009 event: almost all do do with social media and customer engagement.

Many big businesses are giving the appearance of embracing social media, but the old corporate facade no longer works when it comes to this kind of customer engagement. Unless your interactions are genuine and customer-centric, your 'fans' will turn on you and expose your falseness to the world.

Not just for big business

The truly awesome fact about the kind of social media engagement that Optus now practice is that you can do it too!

Each of the three examples listed above provide a sound strategy for building genuine customer relationships. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Launch a Facebook fanpage
    • Build a custom page for non-fans to instantly understand your brand and ensure that the call to action prompts them to 'Like' your page
    • Post questions that your fans will respond to - every post should be a call to engagement
    • Respond to every comment - if you listen, they will post
  2. Start a Twitter page
    • Customise your background for brand reinforcement and additional info
    • Follow Twitter users who post relevant tweets about things that will interest the people you want to follow you
    • Post useful information and ask thought provoking questions
    • ReTweet other user's relevant posts
    • Don't go off-topic
  3. Find forums that are relevant to your field
    • Join in the community, offer your honest opinion
    • Be genuine
    • Don't plug your wares (except perhaps in your signature)
    • If you can, find 'DoFollow' blogs - those that do not use the No Follow attribute for external links. You'll accumulate PageRank by posting in blogs that give freely of their linkjuice
  4. Make it easy for people to find your contact/support details on your website
  5. Use services like Postling or Hootsuite to manage posting to multiple social services and track responses in a timely fashion.

While the above tips are all great methods of building and maintaining a fan base, it can only work if your approach is genuine, personable and consistent.

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