Featured in Forbes: Building Your Brand In 2019 Starts With Caring
From "the customer is always right" to "service with a smile," consumers are looking for brands that go the extra mile. Whether it’s calling a customer when the shoes they were looking for arrive at the store or holding onto an item for an extra day, small gestures can communicate compassion and empathy.
With the rise of social media, we have seen a shift from having to tell consumers we care, to actually demonstrating our compassion. In today’s crowded space of brands vying to grab consumers' attention, those with a clear mission and a purpose centered around caring tend to get noticed. In fact, research has found that most U.S. consumers are more loyal to brands that care about them.
Here are a few ways to get started:
Personalize your social media responses.
Social media’s dominance in brand communications has brought with it an obsession over analytics. Like never before, we can measure every click and impression. But what do these statistics tell us about how people feel? Sure, sentiment analysis tools exist, but taking the time to use a personal touch is the key to success for brands looking to build relationships based on caring.
Reading comments and monitoring feedback is a great place to start, but the real value is in the crucial next step: responding. Responding to questions, comments and concerns from followers on social media is a simple way for brands to interact with consumers and to demonstrate that they care.
However, not all engagement on social media is the same. Our team has seen firsthand that developing an individualized approach to follower interactions can enhance a brand’s long-term strategy. For example, say someone leaves a complaint on your website about a product malfunctioning. Many brands would rely on a quick-fix response that contains an apology, but this approach misses an opportunity to demonstrate caring and to build a relationship.
When apologizing, focus on offering a solution, if possible. You could offer a replacement product or assure the customer that the matter will be investigated. For example, if someone posts a photo of their broken eyeshadow palette a week before their wedding, you could reach out to them, letting them know that you’d love to send them a free replacement. Take it from Gary Vee, who made a two-and-a-half-hour trip to personally deliver a case of wine that wasn't shipped in time for his customer’s Christmas dinner. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.
As an agency that represents our clients' brands on social, it is imperative that we look at our social engagement as real-time personalization of the brand, including the customer service that is provides. From a best-practices standpoint, we've found that timeliness is key. We actively monitor our clients' social channels multiple times per day, including on weekends, to ensure that customers are satisfied.
If a problem arises, I'd recommend quickly routing the concern offline to the correct party. By taking the customer service offline in these situations -- whether that be via phone or email, and by a member of your internal team or a client contact -- you can make sure that the resolution is swift and personalized, which adds another level of brand engagement, awareness and care.
Share that you care.
As silly as it sounds, take "sharing is caring" literally when it comes to brand strategy. Share content on social that shows your followers how your team demonstrates caring. This kind of engagement takes more time than simple responses, but it's worth it because sharing content can start a conversation.
For example, is your company or brand team involved with charity work? Document your day via Instagram and Facebook, and share that content with your fanbase while tagging the charity organization. This is a win for all parties. By sharing your mantra of generosity, you are also expanding the reach of the charity organization.
The key here is to activate both your internal teams and your customers by not only engaging with service or charity work but also to participate in that kind of work on their own. You can easily spark a conversation through social about giving back and getting involved, which can turn your good deed into something that also grows your business. For example, Instagram just added a donation sticker feature, making it easier for brands and individuals to donate to their favorite nonprofit, which is something that social-good brands could benefit from.
Metrics will always be important, but brands shouldn’t limit themselves to numbers alone. Asking, "How do we make our customers feel?" can be just as important as a low cost-to-click ratio.
Brands have followed customers and clients onto social media because they want to be where they are. However, this journey has taken us into the space of individuals. Companies must now compete as equals against people and influencers for attention. To stand out, we must rely on human behaviors, such as caring, to provide a hook for audiences to engage with our content.
So, the next time you have the opportunity, take a deep breath, and respond with a human-to-human approach -- and see what happens. If it comes from a place of caring, it could be the first step in building a relationship that will last a lifetime.