Do you ever wonder who is behind the tweets sent by your favorite brand? Or maybe you don’t even care if it just sounds like an advertisement. What if it’s a direct response to a tweet you sent? Do you ever feel like just one of many?
Anthony Shop, chief strategy officer & co-founder of Social Driver, says when it comes to communicating online it’s no secret that there are real people behind the social media accounts, and that it is important for companies to be conscious of not sounding “sterile” or “scrubbed” when communicating online to customers. “Your audience gets frustrated when they feel like they’re reading something that sounds like a press release,” remarks Shop.
Social Driver, a Washington D.C. based digital agency, was recently named the 7th fastest growing agency in the U.S. , and Shop says one illustration of good customer service on Twitter he has seen is when the social media manager puts his or her initials directly in a response – citing a recent example of his own exchange with United Airlines:
In the article, “A Benchmark Analysis of the Strategic Use of Social Media for Fortune’s Most Admired U.S. Companies on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube,” published in PRSA’s Public Relations Journal, authors Marcia DiStaso and Tina McCorkindale cite an article stating “a conversational human voice has been found to positively impact dimensions of trust, satisfaction, commitment, and control mutuality.”
Social Driver’s Anthony Shop, put it succinctly, “Companies that embrace a digital mentality find a way to put their customers at the center, rather than their brands at the center.”
Shop says a lot of folks who are hesitant to embrace digital technology are afraid that if they put themselves out there they will have to face the question: “What are people going to say about us?” He says he responds, “If people are going to say something bad about you or your brand, they’re going to say it. Wouldn’t you rather know about it?”
One of the most important dimensions of a social media strategy, according to Shop, is listening. He says social media should be treated as an “online cocktail party” which means determining who is important to talk to, why you are there, and then actively engaging in meaningful conversation.
In a blog posted on our website in August, Using Twitter in Times of Crises, we gave some cringe-worthy examples of Tweets sent accidentally, Tweets sent from the wrong account and automatic Tweets sent at inappropriate times. When it comes to using social media, Shop urges companies to not be afraid and to have a plan in place. “Obviously we need to be cautious, but we don’t need to be so scared that we never do anything. If we are open and honest with our audience they are often really forgiving.”
Utilizing user-generated content is another way to connect with your audience – and actually let them do the talking for you. One organization that has shown how successful user-generated content can be, and what Shop calls an “exemplary case,” is the “It Gets Better Project”.
Advice columnist Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller launched the It Gets Better Project in response to gay youth, and youth perceived by peers as gay, committing suicide. An NPR article about the project states, “…Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, created a YouTube video about their own experiences being bullied as teens, to tell teenagers a simple message about the future: It gets better.”
According to the It Gets Better Project, more than 50,000 user-generated videos have been created and posted online – far surpassing the 100, maybe 200, videos Savage originally thought might be submitted.
In the PRSA Public Relations Journal article, “The Next Dimension in Public Relations Campaigns: A Case Study of the It Gets Better Project,” Jamie Ward says, “Digital media has forever altered the communication landscape. Social media platforms have given rise to marginalized voices that would otherwise never have been heard.” Ward continues, “These voices, sharing struggles and triumphs, are unique in every way. Authentic voice allows speakers to vocalize their stories without boundaries.”
There are many strategies available to help you to be more open, authentic and transparent with your audience. The social and digital forces that exist right now are some of the most powerful tools available to bring people together, Shop says, “So people can accomplish incredible things.”