Many businesses will argue that because they’ve invested in a strong presence on social media, they can safely categorize themselves as a social business. Perhaps they have hired a dedicated social media professional in the marketing department who manages all of the company’s social media outreach, or even a team of folks who blanket social media 24/7. But simply having a social media presence isn’t what makes a business truly social. In fact, businesses who invest in social media but don’t understand the steps to building a truly social business are wasting their time and money.

In this post, which I’ve adapted from a recent article I wrote for iMediaConnection, I talk about some essential things that every truly social business lives and breathes by: They must invest in a responsive, personalized approach to customer service, and they must engage with customers in a proactive, genuine manner.

In addition to the steps discussed in this post (and the next post), it’s critical you have a platform within your organization that makes it easy for employees to share company information. This is exactly what we do here at EveryoneSocial, we make employee interaction with current and potential customers as easy as pushing a button. If it isn’t easy for employees to interact with customers, they won’t share with friends and potential customers. It’s that simple.

I’ll follow up this post later with the other essential things that companies must know to build a truly social business. For now, here’s Part I of my tips for social success:

Customer service must be responsive and personal
One of the biggest mistakes that a business can make is thinking social media is merely an outlet to disseminatepart_I a pre-packaged marketing message. Increasingly, customers are turning to social media as a way to get sales and support-related services. When they do, they don’t want to hear a generic, impersonal marketing message.

Customers and potential customers alike want to be able to ask individual questions and dialogue about your product and services with a human being, just like they would if they called your toll-free 800 number or visited your store.

Many companies are wary of social media interactions with customers because they’re so much more public than a one-on-one call over the phone. Don’t be deterred by this. It is critical to build rapport with all customers by fostering two-way conversation.

Also remember that the mode of communication your customer chooses should not determine the level of service and support they get from you. What this means is that corporate social media accounts should not be staffed by someone who can’t also be responsive to customer-service queries. There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than when the business responds to a customer service query on social media by instructing the customer to “call our 800 number for help.” If your customer express concerns to you on social media, then their concern should (whenever possible) be handled on social media.

Engagement with customers must feel genuine and deep
When your customer visit your store in person or calls your 800 number for assistance, they expect a human being who introduces themself and connects with them in a way that is genuine and heartfelt. Not everyone will buy something from you every time, but in this setting, you expect your employees to build relationships and rapport with your prospective customers. What you would never do is unleash your top marketing exec on them, armed with a polished presentation and talking points.

The same is true on social media. You don’t want your customer to feel they’re being aggressively and impersonally marketed to.

You also must realize that every social media interaction will not necessarily end with a sale. In fact, your company’s engagement opportunities neither start nor end with a sales transaction. On social media, it is critical to build rapport by letting your audience help you shape the dialogue and the discussion.

Don’t try to mastermind and redirect the conversation – your audience wants to feel their opinions and values are not only being carefully considered, but also celebrated and promoted by your business. Let this process happen organically, just like you would in your physical storefront.

You must rise above customer negativity
Remember that no matter how critical or downright disrespectful a customer may be when they reach out to your business on social media, you should always respond to them. And what do you say to someone with nothing pleasant to say? The solution is to kill your audience with kindness and engage your customer in a constructive way.

Your interaction should start with a thank you; if you don’t have a reason to thank a challenging customer, then simply say, “Thank you for taking the time to find us and communicate with us on this forum.”

Your willingness to engage your biggest critics will not go unnoticed or unappreciated – if not by the intended recipient, then by your larger customer base that is silently eavesdropping. And who knows? You just may end up winning over some of your fiercest critics. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of business.

Once again, you need a platform that makes it easy for your employees to interact with customers on social media. We want EveryoneSocial to be that platform. It is the perfect solution for this interaction. It makes it easy for your employees to share both company and third-party content. This allows your employees to become industry thought leaders and inspires great trust in your customers. To take your first step to building a strong social media presence with your customers schedule a demo with us today.