Three Deadly Social Engagement Traits to Break

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Social NetworkSimilar to a conversation between two guests at a party discussing the state of politics or critiquing a movie, a social engagement strategy entails more than just speaking and listening; it requires engaging in interactive and meaningful dialogue.

Instead, many companies use social to promote a product, to sell, or to monitor brand mentions. To be truly effective at leveraging social to engage customers and foster loyalty, organizations must transition from using social as a one-dimensional broadcast device to a two-way communications channel that enables meaningful and personalized dialogue.

To start increasing their social engagement IQ, some companies must learn proper social engagement etiquette and stop making these three common social blunders.

Trait #1: The disingenuous party crasher

Let’s say we were talking at a cocktail party, and I responded to a comment that you made with something that had nothing to do with what you said. You would think that reaction was bizarre.

Just like in real-life social gatherings, people want conversations in social networks to be genuine and to avoid overt marketing tactics geared toward soliciting a product or event. Social networks bring people to connect, but posting out-of-context messages, deals, and discounts in the middle of a social conversation is off-putting.

Because it is easy to find mentions of your brand online there is a temptation to think that you need to respond to them in the hope of monetizing every interaction. In fact, you should not build a process of reacting and responding that treat messages in social media differently from other mediums.

To avoid using social only to solicit deals, it’s important for brands to put in place a clear and thorough process for reacting and responding to mentions of their brands online and to share social ownership with customer service.

Trait #2: The wallflower.

Let’s say that we are at that same party and are commending another guest’s charitable efforts in the community. She is standing right next to us and hears every word, yet doesn’t interject to thank us. That’s pretty weird.

The same goes for when a customer goes onto a fan page of a brand on Facebook and says that she had a poor customer experience with that particular brand and the company sees that, but remains silent. Context is just as important as monitoring mentions. When someone responds in a conversation, it should be give and take.

A recent survey carried out by Conversocial on U.S. consumer expectations of social media found that while 51 percent of respondents were using social media to communicate with corporations, a third of consumers who had attempted to communicate with companies via social networking sites were ignored. Furthermore, 88 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to do business with that retailer if their complaint went unanswered.

The airlines do a good job of monitoring the social sites for mentions, but they don’t just respond; they seem to go above and beyond to also serve and assist customers who need help. Delta, for example, launched @DeltaAssist last May to serve as a complementary channel to its toll-free number and website. Employees assigned to it can change reservations and issue tickets. A Delta passenger recently tweeted that he needed to cancel his flight, but was tied up in a meeting. Delta canceled the flight for him and got him on a new one.

With this in mind, businesses need to make sure that their social media strategy includes customer service, otherwise they risk losing not only existing customers, but also new customers—given that social media gives the casual observer the chance to see if, and how, a brand or business responds to a customer complaint.

Trait #3: The conversation hog.

Smart companies understand that social media impacts their business across all departments. Therefore, an organization’s social strategy and the feedback gleaned from it shouldn’t belong to just one group; it should be a shared initiative with definitive owners who have dotted lines between departments.

Unlike someone at a party who controls the conversation and doesn’t let other guests get a word in edgewise, social should be structured so that everyone can leverage the information and conversations happening on social sites to improve their specific area of the business.

At General Motors, for example, the company created a community guideline document that specified that when people in the social media group see a consumer making comparisons in social on different brands of cars, they must send the information to the product team. In this case, the social media group acts as a connector in the organization to leverage the value of what’s happening in social media and bring it back to the other parts of the business.

Additionally, IBM established a virtual taskforce for sharing information. An informal social media council with representatives across business functions gathers regularly to share best practices, comments, and sentiment from feedback collected from social channels.

IBM, General Motors, and Delta are proof that having social media etiquette works in making them the bon vivant of the party. Now that you know the three social traits to avoid, it’s time to rejoin the party—minus the martini and crudités.