3 ways brands use social media to build relationships with their customers

Social media has changed the world in more ways than ever, and brands have had to devote time, resources, and brain power to figure out this powerful communication tool.

Social media platforms  are inherently public, offering consumers a shared forum to air their opinions—good and bad—and have conversations about everything from products they love to experiences they’ve hated. The rise of social media as a public forum has also forced companies to become part of the conversation and engage with customers, as well as risk brand damage when criticism or negative feedback goes viral.

But beyond that, social media gives companies a direct line to support their consumers. No longer tied to customer service call centers to interact, brands have better visibility into the opinions and experiences of their shoppers.

In only a few years, social media has evolved from a place to share 140-character personal updates to a new landscape for companies to engage, expand positive brand affinity, and even source ideas to create or improve products. Savvy brands are using social media as an essential tool in three primary categories:   

1. Customer service

Complaining online is as old as the internet itself. But with the creation of social networks and the subsequent investment in brand social profiles, responding to these complaints in real time became a powerful statement for brands. Social media can be an extension of your customer support lines.

Many brands tell consumers to message them directly on social media platforms to get a problem addressed more quickly. It is a more efficient and pleasant experience for consumers than calling a helpline and waiting on hold.

The best and most innovative brands have active social media channels that they use to address customer concerns and offer support. They respond quickly with actionable solutions, and if they can’t figure out the problem, they encourage the consumer to contact them directly.

Hi there! Can you let us know the device, operating system, and app version you're using? We'll see what we can suggest /PB

— SpotifyCares (@SpotifyCares) March 23, 2017

Hi Towa, I'm so sorry about that! Unfortunately we had a system error yesterday that caused some issues. Can you DM us your account information so I can look further into this? https://t.co/qKdT3REi0W

— Instacart (@Instacart) October 23, 2018

2. Updates and customer safety announcements

One of the most valuable features of social media is its ability to spread information widely and quickly with minimal effort. This is an especially useful quality for brands who often need to disseminate important information. Whether it is a product recall, website outage, safety information, or an important company update, social media makes communicating the information easy and efficient.

Grocers and food suppliers use these platforms to inform shoppers on important recalls that could get lost in an overloaded inbox.  Other brands are able to put a user's mind at ease by keeping them posted on network availability if their services go offline. 

Thanks for reaching out! You can see up to date information regarding any product recalls at Whole Foods Market here: https://t.co/U9Aw0ToFIH For any other recall information, we recommend checking the FDA's official recall page here: https://t.co/6XWzqIwpYi

— Whole Foods Market (@WholeFoods) May 14, 2018

Something’s out of tune. We’re currently investigating, and we’ll keep you posted here!

— SpotifyCares (@SpotifyCares) July 21, 2018

Sometimes it's the consumers themselves who send out the alert. Peer-to-peer communication allows users to find camaraderie and inform each other about a service's status. 

Me sliding into twitter to see if I’m not the only one who’s instagram is down pic.twitter.com/K9aXDAOfzv

— Hattie 🤷‍♀️ (@hattie_lawson01) June 12, 2018

3. Feedback

Customers happily and frequently give their opinions and feedback on social media. Use it to your advantage by applying those comments to your roadmap and improving your products or services. By crowdsourcing feedback on social media, you will be able to see common problems and patterns. Finding glitches and solutions may be easier in this aggregate forum.

A few tech companies do a great job using social media to gauge what issues their engineering team needs to focus on and then communicating that to their users.

Hi Richard - so sorry for the trouble! Our team is aware of this bug & is proactively working on a fix. If you still need help, please let me know what computer operating system (OS) you're using & I'd be happy to assist. ^Denise

— Adobe Customer Care (@AdobeCare) October 22, 2018

Hi Mihai,

Sorry for the trouble, regarding the Camera Raw is not compatible error dialog, have a look at this article for this error: https://t.co/ul9H0bL03S

We're working on a fix for this, stay tuned.

Will loop in our Illustrator guru as well.Regards^PG

— Adobe Creative Cloud (@creativecloud) February 14, 2018

Social media also gives companies an almost immediate form of feedback: likes, shares, and comments. This additional feedback is easily quantified and can provide valuable insights into the content that is resonating with customers.

Meet your customers where they are

When customers try to communicate with a company, they can feel like they're yelling into a black hole. Responding to your customers on social media allows them to feel heard and encourages a positive brand relationship. It gives you a direct line to your customers and them a direct line to you.

Social media also gives your company insights into customers’ struggles, preferences, and experiences. It can provide opportunities you might have missed otherwise.  The bottom line is that, by participating in social media, your company will gain many opportunities to meet customers where they are.