Customers are the heart of any business. No matter how excellent your marketing strategy is or how smart your sales and support team is, if you do not have customers or if customers don't come back to you, your business will hit rock bottom in no time!
Now, the question is; what brings customers to businesses and what keeps them coming back time and time again?
There could be many reasons why a customer comes to you in the first place, but what keeps them coming back is the result of how you treat them (or how they feel they are treated).
If you connect with them on a personal level and go the extra mile each time, there is no way they won't come back. Not just that, but they will also act as your brand ambassadors as you continue to engage with them on regular basis.
But in order to connect with your target audience, you have to be where they are. If you are in the retail business, in most cases your target audience will be present on social media.
How to effectively engage with customers on social media?
If you research other successful retail brands around you, you will realize that almost everyone, especially businesses that are growing rapidly, are using social media to engage with their customers in some capacity. If you are a business that has a target audience on social media, here are some simple tips to engage with your customers on social networking websites.
1. The human touch
You have to say 'no' to custom-made, one-fit-for-all type messages that ask customers to email their problems in detail to a certain address or suggest that they contact you via phone. The human touch means interacting with customers and genuinely trying to understand and solve their problems on social media.
Nowadays, almost every major airline, restaurant, caf, hotel and retail brand is using social media as a customer service tool to directly interact with customers and help them solve their problems, and in some cases even change their perception about the brand.
We have to understand why this strategy always works. Social media is open, unbiased and can powerfully disseminate information across the world in a remarkably short period of time. Your unconditional support and level of engagement on social media will not only solve a problem but will also encourage other people within your customers' circle to try you out.
And if by any chance your supportive conversation with your customer goes viral, it will bring you unlimited brand value and referral customers at the end of the day. Did you know that word-of-mouth marketing is a tried and tested method of creating more loyal customers? Always remember that a happy customer will always bring back more.
2. Ask for suggestions and feedback
If you are a business then everything you do revolves around your target audience. Instead of racking up your brains to come up with a new and advanced version of your product and 'assuming' that your target audience will like it, why not ask them directly for their opinions and suggestions for improvements?
By doing this, you will not just make your audience feel important and valued, but they in turn will also consider you to be a more customer-friendly brand.
This can truly make a winning difference to your business strategy and make you stand out among the hundreds of other businesses in the market selling the same things.
I really love how Moz.com always asks their customers on social media about their experience with their tech tools and how those can be improved. Moz then makes all necessary changes accordingly. They are very open about listening to their customers' feedback. This simple formula allows them to retain their customers for a much longer period of time.
3. Educate them on a regular basis
This is another very important area where I have seen many businesses fail. Social media is important, but it's not only about giving better customer service or asking them for advice. Social media is a two-way interaction medium which means if you are asking for advice, you have to give them what they want in return.
No, I don't mean giveaways, but information. The idea is to share information with the audience and your customers on social media. It could be related to your product and how one can use it for maximum benefit or about the industry in general.
Here is how Clickdesk.com usually educates their audience. Creating awareness among your customers about not only the brand and product, but also the industry in general will make your brand appear more powerful and authentic.
4. Be consistent
This is the most difficult part of the process. The idea is to be consistent and to time, plan and execute your online activities according to a defined, step-by-step schedule. You might not be able to stay on social media all the time, especially if you are a startup, but oscillating between periods of aggressive activity and lulls before you reappear on your twitter profile again could be harmful to your reputation.
Be consistent so that your audience knows when to expect a response from you. Make a calendar and follow it religiously.
I love how brands like Lulus and Tobi have crafted their presence on social media. They interact with customers, update their audience about new arrivals and more, but they also follow a set timeline for each of their online activities so that their customers know when to expect the launch of a new product, discount deals and the like.
In conclusion, customer engagement via social media is not really a choice anymore, especially if you are competing in the retail world. It is important to empower, educate and train your support team to connect with customers via social media.
If used smartly, it will help you create new customers and retain old ones while continuously keeping you ahead of your game.
Moosa Hemani is a SEO consultant and a blogger at Setalks.com. Want to talk more about SEO and customer engagement? Follow him on twitter @mmhemani.