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I hear you loud and clear “company X”…but are you listening to me?

Have you ever come across a company you liked on social networks, eagerly clicked the ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ button only to be bombarded with their products and services 24/7? You try to engage with them…maybe you shared something they said or asked a question and then never get a response? Or maybe you’ve had to disengage because the information they share on social sites is less than appropriate? Doesn’t it make you want to say…I hear you loud and clear “company X” but are you listening to me? Really?!

The sad fact is that many businesses look at social media solely as an easy way to promote their products and services. Making an update on a social media site is quick and simple, but with no interactions between your followers or fans, you are missing out on some of the best opportunities that using social media can offer to your company. Keep these tips in mind before you hit the “share” button.

Build a Community

Building a community means engaging in the variety of dialogues that your industry promotes and engaging others. Using social media is a symbiotic relationship, and there are multiple ways to expand your online community and fan base. Interact with your customers. When you make a post, why stop at a simple update? Add a question to it and invite your followers to share their feedback with you. You can hosts contests or ask simple trivia questions relevant to your industry. Make your social media interactions fun and inviting, and your customers are more likely to feel like a part of your community.

Get Personal

Your followers should see your company as more than just a name and logo. Put some personality to your page. If you have multiple employees, highlight some of their projects and share their process with your fans. This does not mean giving away development secrets, but including your customers in how things get done will emphasize the human effort involved in your projects. Show that real people work with you. Share their success stories or relevant hurdles and how they overcame them to get where they are. Provide them with unique insight into your company so that it becomes more than a shadowy name behind a computer screen or closed door.

Listen

Use your page to address legitimate concerns and problems that customers might have with your company. If you have a large amount of followers, chances are you won’t be able to respond to everything. But if you appear to be active in addressing these concerns publicly, your followers will be more likely to engage with you in other ways.

Share Knowledge

Your company doesn’t have to be the only source of information for your fans. People will appreciate that your business shares the tips and resources that help you. Everyone has to start somewhere, and your fan base and potential customers will most likely be at various points in their careers. Sharing tips from others is a useful way to illustrate your engagement and awareness of the larger community.

Don’t be a Bully

The wrong way to use social media is to badmouth your competition. Let your services and products speak for themselves or link to positive reviews. Recently a company executive was seen bashing the competition through a comment on a competitor’s post. This is a deliberate move that only serves to make you look silly in public. It invites fans of your competitor to defend them, and it forces you to remain on the defense, constantly justifying why you were negative in the first place. If a client’s first experience of your business shows negativity and pettiness, they aren’t likely to want to see more.

Support Others

Likewise, not everyone is your competitor. If a company or individual is offering a service or tool that works well with your product, why not plug them in an article or post. Provide a link to their website or page. This gives them traffic from your base and might result in traffic to yours. You could potentially reach a new customer base that you weren’t expecting. This also goes back to the first tip—build a community.

Companies should bear in mind that the average employee is not necessarily the right candidate to lead social media efforts.

Here’s an example:

A company starts a corporate blog seemingly in an effort to personalize their business and connect with their customers. The company’s blog begins well enough, but then derails into public embarrassment. Regrettably the blogger starts attacking competitors, arguing with employers, and insulting the intelligence of the readers. The company then invites another employee to join the blog, and the two voices lack cohesiveness and don’t seem to be promoting the same vision for the social media space. In addition to the blog, they move on to other social media sites—with one person setting up profiles with the bare minimum of information, and the other being overly enthusiastic, shares any and everything that pops into their mind. Throughout their social media endeavors they continue their hostility toward their customers. Not only do these efforts backfire, they also serve to show a complete lack of awareness on the company’s part regarding the correct way to use social media tools.

Genuine engagement and sincerity are the key. Keep your updates open, encouraging and relevant. Let your followers know that you welcome their interaction. This way your customers will feel like they actually have a stake in your products or services.