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Social media 101: How to start conversations with your customers

Social media 101: How to start conversations with your customers

When it comes to starting conversations with customers online, finding the right voice takes both know-how and experience. So if you're looking for more effective ways to interact with your customers on social media, here are some tips to get the conversation flowing in your favour.

 

Leverage LinkedIn groups

One of the best ways to start conversations with prospective customers is by joining relevant industry groups on LinkedIn. Start by selecting “Groups” from the drop-down box next to the search bar and type in your industry name or topic. Once you find and join the groups you're interested in, you can engage in conversations or start your own.

Be sure to avoid self-promotion such as linking to your website or trying to sell something. As many groups are moderated, starting conversations that are not relevant to what's being discussed can cause your comments to be deleted or your account suspended.

Know your customer

Before jumping into conversations on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, take the time to get to know your audience. For instance, you can check out their profiles and read their posts to learn more about their interests and what's important to them. With so much content floating around these days, it's important to target customers with communications that are relevant to solving their problems and needs.

Answer questions

One of the best ways to start conversations and position yourself as an industry leader is to contribute your insights and advice in response to posts on LinkedIn and Google+ communities. Because people are much more likely to do business with people they trust, offering truly useful, timely and valuable advice can pay big dividends down the road.

Ask questions

Having joined a relevant forum or online community, another way to break the ice and stimulate dialogue is to ask your customers a question. Some examples include:

  • What do you think about...? This could refer to a hot topic in your sector and shows that you’re on top of industry trends and value your customers' opinions.
  • Did you know that...? This question can be used to provide helpful tips and advice and may offer a nugget of interesting insight or perhaps link to an enlightening article or statistic on a topic of relevance to your audience.

With the holidays fast approaching, now is a great time to ask customers which of your products they would like for Christmas on Facebook or Twitter, then surprise some of them with a coupon for that item.

Be positive

If a customer is critical or presents an opposing opinion, strive to remain open-minded and see things from their point of view. In today's socially connected world, the businesses and brands that do well understand the need to present their best selves at all times by keeping conversations friendly, helpful and customer oriented. As Nestlé learnt the hard way, going on the defensive with customers doesn’t win anyone over – in their case, it only caused further backlash.

If a complaint does start to get out of hand it’s sometimes best to take the conversation offline, for example by suggesting they contact you via a private message.

Create visually compelling content

Because the human brain processes visuals much faster than text, consider combining text with images to more quickly convey your message. For example, studies show that businesses that market with infographics show 12 per cent more traffic growth than those who don't.

Experiment with different channels

With different social media channels appealing to different audiences, try your messages out on different sites to see where you get the most enthusiastic response. Again, it helps to know your target audience and where they are most likely to be spending their time online.

Show your gratitude

When a customer compliments your business or products, it pays to show your gratitude. With the holidays arriving, why not thank your customers with personalised greetings? By making the effort to show your gratitude in tangible ways, you will encourage conversations and build lasting loyalty.

Having conversations with customers online is not all that different from having conversations face to face. Regardless of the channel, the key is to understand your customers and their needs and find helpful and creative ways to meet them. 

 If your web and social media pages could do with a facelift, here are some budget-friendly ways to enhance your online presence and make yourself more visible.

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