Across social media, many brands have invested in promotional messages, influencer programs, and content production, however, despite its cost-effective power to build an audience, authentic and well-crafted community management still remains an untapped resource.

As marketers try to quantify and justify the returns on the investment in a social presence, they shouldn’t concentrate on vanity metrics, such as followers or impressions. Instead, they should and do look to engagement. Likes, comments, shares, private messages and click through rate, all present a better view of how your social pages are working for your brand. More than that, the conversations about your company, whether on your pages or in the vast socialsphere give you a more comprehensive picture as to what people think about their experience with your organization. By investing in community management and interacting with your audience, you are able to join or create these conversations, and give your brand not only a voice, but a personality.

Creating brand standards ensures continuity of a brand’s persona when interacting with its social audience. The words, tone and style that you choose when interacting with your audience should mimic that which you bring to your copy, and are just as important.

While quality engaging content is undoubtedly important, sending it out into the void is not enough. Organizations can spend countless hours and valuable marketing dollars creating stunning visual assets, crafting creative and engaging copy, and researching messaging and targeting that will resonate with their audience – but posting it is only half the story.

Don’t underestimate the amount of time, planning and strategy that goes into talking to your customers from the perspective of your brand. Interacting with your audience provides a personal touch that brings your brand from a concept to an entity. Being able to understand and imitate the tone that a brand would have is something that is learned and perfected. This gives a brand a personality. A personality that should directly stem from the persona the brand has created, and one that your target audience will want to interact with.

Are you in the luxury market? Well then you better present proper grammar, elevated language and vernacular that positively correlates with the words, phrases and cultural touch-points your affluent audience wishes to see. Are you a commodity product whose value proposition is lower cost, or possibly a restaurant that wants to appeal to the everyday Joes and Janes? Well, then bring that experience to your customers with your social voice and tone. We find amazing examples in Wendy’s and Arby’s community management teams. Their customers want to engage with them on social, because they expect a sassy and sarcastic response that resonates with their audience. You community management should be a natural extension of the rest of your branding.

Every marketer has heard the adage that “Content is King.” Well if social media is your kingdom, your followers are your citizens, memes are the court jester, your brand standards are your laws, and community management is the reigning queen.

Customer service and the consumer experience extend from the four walls of your business or the pages of your website. Social media has quickly become the top choice for a customer care channel. When expressing opinions or sharing their experience with a brand, consumers turn to their personal accounts and engage with organizations’ pages. Yet, 89% of social media message to brands go ignored. This becomes a huge problem, as users become disengaged. The followers you spent time and money attracting leave your page, and those in the consideration phase of the buying cycle leave with a bad taste in their mouths. In fact, 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

Will a user ask you a question that they could have easily found through google or your homepage? Yes. Are they inquiring about a completely different brand or company? Quite possibly. Many times, their answer can even be found in the very copy of the post they are commenting their question on. But the processes and responses you put in place to address that user’s question reinforce your brand voice and show it cares about its customers. Having that easy access to just ask a question and get a reliable answer with minimal effort, is what people are looking for.

Social media gives a new power and voice to consumers. They can now share their opinions with not only their social circle, but the entire platform where they are posting. Gary Jules let us know the truth. It’s a mad world out there. Key word: mad. Users are 2X more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one. By quickly addressing these social posts you are taking action to prevent these comments from degrading your brand. You take a proactive, rather than a reactive stance to creating a better customer experience.

When an unhappy customer posts a complaint on your page, they expect a resolution. These moments aren’t just irritations but opportunities to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Research conducted by Pandemic Labs has shown that many consumers just want to be heard and feel as if their concerns matter. Alternatively, when your biggest fan has a place to rave about their new favorite product, they become an ambassador and bring their passion to not only their personal social circle, but become a peer that future visitors of your page can trust and follow. By engaging with these types of posts, you show that you care about what your community has to say.

In an atmosphere of constant communication, people now expect more for less, and may threaten to “bring down your business” with negative reviews, as if blackmail is the end-all-be-all to better service or discounted prices. It’s unfortunate when consumers automatically go into the offensive when they feel like they have been wronged. This can present itself in different ways. From a customer who doesn’t want to pay the associated fee for a cancellation or return, to a guest who is offended by an interaction with someone who represents you company. Even if that interaction was perceived in a different way than intended, or your policies are clearly explained, customers may threaten to use their social clout to perpetuate a negative review.

Regardless of what the reality of the situation may be, perception becomes reality to those who read their comments, and users are more likely to trust consumers – who they relate to as peers – rather than a message put out by the company they think is just trying to sell. But actions speak volumes, and when a company responds to complaints or thanks someone for sharing their positive experience, it shows that there are people behind the screen, working to create the best customer experience they can.

Monitoring of the conversations related to your brand also allows you to identify potential problems and address negative sentiments before they turn into a PR nightmare. Showing that you aren’t tone-deaf to your customers concerns keeps situations from escalating, and quick responses show not only the person you are responding to that you care about what you are saying, but also onlookers that the negative experience that person was reacting to doesn’t represent your brand standards.

Do not commit to creating and managing a social page if you are not expecting to support and actively manage the content and the community that it requires to be successful. If you think that you can get away with a set-and-forget type strategy – then social is not the channel for you.

Written by Lori Yogurtian