How to Throw a Better Social Media Party
Recently, I read an article that compared social media to a dinner party. This illustration keeps coming to mind, and I find myself drawing parallels to how we, as retail marketers, play host at the social media table.
My experience with social media engagement and customer perspective comes from my work with Kirkland’s, a specialty retailer for home décor items. Kirkland’s has an active fan base on both Facebook and its MyKirkland’s community site. Listening, and interacting with these customers daily through social media has helped me shape an understanding of what they expect and desire from the Kirkland’s brand. These customers’ expectations support the “brand as dinner party host,” metaphor in several ways:
A good host creates a safe environment for honest conversation.
Real, candid conversations that take place around the dinner table are where we discover much about our friends’, family’s, and co-workers’ opinions and feelings.
Our social media spaces should be hosted in a similar fashion. If we want to really know what customers are saying about us, what they are thinking, feeling, we must create a safe space for them to do that. Kirkland’s community site, provides a great example of an authentic, not overly guided social space. On this site, ladies share decorating tips and advice, updates on family, and engagement announcements. Sure they talk about décor and their latest Kirkland’s bargain, but this isn’t the only thing that defines them as individuals and or as consumers. We should be eager to have them share things that are important to them, whether it involves our brand or not.
A good host is engaged and asks questions.
Everyone enjoys talking about themselves. It is not uncommon for a party host to initiate conversation by asking guests questions in an effort to create a friendly environment. Customers love to feel that their input matters. (And really, what else does?) We have had great success with this on Kirkland’s Facebook page, particularly with weekly poll questions. We also began asking customers to take more in-depth surveys on everything from shopping habits to product feedback. Over time, we have gained valuable insight on customer behaviors and sentiment towards merchandise and the Kirkland’s brand.
A good host provides great service.
Nothing has more power than customer service. Guests will notice if you are attentive to their needs. If you aren’t, they’ll notice that too, and won’t be afraid to make it known to their co-workers and friends. One of the most common things I see on Facebook are positive and negative comments about customer service. Service matters to our customers, so it should matter to us. If we create an outlet for them to chat publicly with each other and directly with us, we must be prepared to provide them with customer service in this outlet. They will talk about us; are we part of that conversation?
A good host is present.
We have created a safe, inviting environment where guests can converse, share ideas, and express concerns. But the real benefit to us as marketers comes when we engage at the table with customers. We listen more than we talk; we ask questions; we serve. All the while we are there, taking it in, soaking it up, adapting, and even sprinkling our own thoughts into the conversation. No one likes a host without personality, and neither do our customers. Brands with personality are more memorable. Time and energy should be applied to a brand’s voice, tone, and messaging to create a consistent personality through multiple outlets. It’s critical to be present and personable to our customers.
A good host is gracious.
As hosts we are gracious to our guests for making time in their lives to share in a special occasion with us. After all, he or she could have been somewhere else, but they chose to celebrate with you. With this in mind, how can we show them we are appreciative of their time? It can be as simple as a ‘hello’, checking in to let them know we care, or offering up a thank you for their loyalty.
Nothing replaces impeccable hospitality at a party. The host’s job is to create an inviting space and provide service when needed. The outcome and memory of the evening is your responsibility and privilege —just as the experience customers have with our brand is on us.
By developing your social media engagement strategy around these principles, you can gain great success with your customers. They’ll rave about your hospitality and the great “food” you served. And most likely, they will keep coming back for more. Before you know it you might even have a very loyal following of people who love you, and your cooking.