Picture this: You just made (what you think is) the world’s greatest post (or video) and posted it on the brand’s social media asset, adding a little boost money. “This is going to get so much engagement,” you reassure yourself. Slowly, the comments start pouring in. Some people like it, some hate it with a passion and others still randomly tag their friends. The engagement rate is good and the team gets a nice pat on the back from the client. What comes next?
If you are in Pakistan, chances are that this is the end of the cycle. The whole thing repeats itself tomorrow and that’s about it. This is exactly what happens when brands treat social media as a one-way communication tool. Many great campaigns have been bested by the monster called follow-up silence and the only way this would be appreciated is if we were in The Quiet Place. But since we are in the world of social media, this ‘post-posting’ silence is not an option.
So what does it take for a brand to not succumb to this? Easy (well, at least theoretically) – by keeping the conversation going. Brands in Pakistan have this thing where they put all their brainpower in building up a great campaign and posting it on social media. The campaign, along with countless others, builds a personality for the brand and social media gives that personality a voice. This enables brands to talk to their customers and start conversations that have the tendency to turn ‘just’ followers into an online tribe. The ‘main’ content is just a conversation starter and my hypothesis is that the real engagement happens in the comments section.
Take for example, the Wendy’s Twitter account. Instead of exclusively relying on their own content, they proactively seek out other tweets from everyday users and brands alike and engage them in witty banter. Their entire social channel is built upon ‘reactive leadership’, where their personality comes through by the way they react and respond to other conversations on the platform. This emphasis on building a community above and beyond the functional offering is what we have been experimenting with at our agency, especially with app-based clients. Here are three big lessons we have learnt:
1 Don’t Use Canned Replies: To be real, brands need to put thought behind each and everything, not just the initial communication. Something as small as replying uniquely to comments will create a bigger impact, not only on the people mentioned but also the ones who see the content or conversation for the first time. People who see a brand showing vulnerability and being truthful will automatically retain a positive image in their minds. Being human is the only way how brands can generate buzz and get people talking; let’s be real, no one likes monotonous replies to their query. So copy pasting stuff like: “Thank you for contacting us. We’re sorry for the issue you faced. Give us a call on +92**********” doesn’t work. This may seem like a small thing, but it has a huge impact on how consumers perceive a brand. Your brand has a personality. Play with it, use it when conversing with people on and off-page. That personality is shown through the language you use in the comments and messages you post.
2 Leverage The Platform’s Capabilities: Far too many community response teams do the bare minimum to meet their targets. Each platform has unique ways for you to deeply embed yourself in the conversation around your brand in the comments section, both on your page and on others. The basics are simple. Tagging the right people, addressing every individual tagged while replying to the comments and using gifs and memes to be relatable are some of the ways to amplify your personality traits. Yet, we miss a lot of these, either because of rigid guidelines or just scratch the surface of the behaviour. If you feel like going the distance, you may even consider ‘contextual commenting’, a term we have coined to denote when we move away from brand posts and into public profiles, conversing around our topic. For Canderel, we commented on yummy dessert pictures everyday Instagrammers (not paid influencers) posted, complimenting them on how awesome they looked and how they could (if they wanted to) reduce the calorie count by switching sugar with a low-cal sweetener. Be careful though, this is only a thin line away from spamming; you need some nuance. It takes real effort, and as Professor Moody from Harry Potter would say: “Constant vigilance, Harry. Constant vigilance!”
3 Don’t Shy Away From Negative Feedback: Most people don’t realise that polarity is good on the internet, as long as more people in your target audience side with your worldview versus opposing. If your posts get 60% good responses and 40% bad, that is much better than content that doesn’t elicit any response, and contrary to popular belief, it is not just the positive feedback or witty comments you have to look out for. Sometimes, instead of hiding spammy messages, we just diss them instead so that the community can see that we have ‘common ground’ – that both the brand and the users are one team and the spammers are the opponent. Of course, there are negative comments and real people who seem to really have it out for you or your brand and this is where the art of de-escalation comes in. There isn’t a specific science involved in taking a negative comment and turning it into something positive by changing the person’s opinion, but it does depend on the person handling the response management and how they tackle each situation. Do not be afraid to admit mistakes and have an unconditional nuclear-level apology response post on the ready in case you really mess up. Given how important and intricate the art of response management is, good response management gives younger, more agile brands, especially start-ups and apps (which have leaner more targeted audiences) a bigger chance to build loyalty and stronger communities which they can then increase with time. Being human is not always easy and if a brand is more human – standing for something and owning and apologising for their mistakes, it has a stronger impact on audiences.
Make your brand’s voice matter; take risks as failure is a part of growth. However, avoid offending too many people at the same time. Basically, improve your brand’s personality as you would your own. That is how you make sure that people love your brand for what it is and represents, and not just the products it sells today. Listen to your audience and hear them at the same time. There is more to life than chasing that 90% response rate.
Kiran Zahid is Content Lead, Ishtehari. firstname.lastname@example.org