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Hello, is there anybody in there?

No one likes talking to an empty room.

It's an innately human desire to want to be heard, and to seek validation of your opinions and concerns. And yet, in one of the fastest growing communication platforms, the majority of customer voices (67% in fact) are being ignored by brands - that's a real problem for businesses and organisations.

Social media marketing has developed into so much more than pushing out content through all the channels you can - or as we call, the "spray and pray" technique.

You may have a lot of followers. You may have decent engagement rates. But to us, a true measure of your organisation's influence is how you interact with people, in the good times and the bad.

Terms like "relationship building" and "brand trust" might seem twee and overused, but the modern consumer treats your social channels in the same way they would an online review site. They want to hear what others have to say about your brand, and how you handle positive or negative feedback are golden stars stamped on your page.

You're showing people the exit when you ignore their feedback



Engaging with, and responding to, comments and feedback on social media is crucial. A new survey from Apptentive and SurveyMonkey asked over 1,200 people for their thoughts on customer service through mobile apps. You can access the full survey here.

The survey revealed 55% of respondents said that if their feedback is ignored, they would be less likely to remain a customer.

However, businesses are struggling to live up to their potential, with the survey revealing a whopping 67% of respondents said they never receive responses to their feedback.

Are you one of the many organisations that doesn't respond to your customers online?

Feedback can be for a greater good



According to the survey, the primary reason consumers provide feedback is to be helpful, rather than for incentives. The other reasons consumers provided feedback were to "help other customers, and to help the companies improve their service in order to grow their business."

Yes, of course some people just want to rant - we've all been there. But you might be pleasantly surprised just how many people will be responsive when you listen to their criticisms, thank them for the input, and keep them posted on how their feedback will be used.

The key to get people to give feedback may be to simply ask them – after all, 93% of survey respondents said they would provide feedback if asked. And replying to consumers goes a long way, with 99% of respondents saying they would be willing to provide feedback if the company listened and made changes accordingly.

Lean into criticism



Gone are the days where deleting negative comments on a Facebook page are warranted. Today, screenshots mean that even a quickly deleted tweet or post can be circulated across the internet within moments - and the result is that any criticism of the initial post is compounded by the fact someone tried to cover it up with the deletion.

It can seem counter intuitive and uncomfortable, but businesses need to learn to lean in to negative feedback, particularly in the online space. You risk doing your brand far more harm than good when you choose to ignore the comments of your audience.

Take some time to read and assess how other brands respond to negative feedback on their social media pages: consider the tone, the message, the apology or clarification.

Turn negative comments into opportunities



We've worked with a number of clients to support their social media presence, and as a result, we've seen a number of instances where customer complaints have turned into opportunities for a better relationship between the organisation and its audience.

Despite social media and online communications being facilitated through technology, at its heart, online communication is still about connecting people with stories, ideas and organisations. If you can make someone feel like their voice is being heard, their opinion valued, and their criticism validated, you've already succeeded in bringing them closer to your business.

Negative comments can also represent a valuable strategic opportunity to get to know your audience better, and to improve your service or product offering. You can shape existing programmes, create new ones, tailor your communications plans and tune your messaging.

Just nod if you can hear me



Responding to customers doesn't have to be painstaking or time consuming. With some planning and resource allocation, you can ensure that every opportunity to improve the relationship with an existing or potential customer is captured.

It doesn't take much to acknowledge your audience. If you've ever had a brand like a photo you've shared of their product, or had a retweet from a business or brand when you've mentioned them, you know the feeling of satisfaction that comes from being heard.

Simple ways you can respond to your customers



There are two words in the English language that go a very long way. Those two words, are thank you. When communicating with your customers in the online space (or offline, for that matter), don't underestimate how powerful saying thanks and acknowledging their input and presence can be.

Here's a few simple ways that you can improve your responses to your audience and ensure they aren't one of the 55% of customers who would likely stop doing business with you if their feedback is ignored:

  • Regularly monitor all of your social media channels
  • Thank new followers and 'like' content they share
  • If someone tags your brand in a post or tweet, comment, share and respond immediately
  • For negative feedback, promptly acknowledge the comment and then ask for more information in an offline forum (i.e. on Twitter or Facebook, ask them to direct message with more details)
  • If someone shares a photo of your product or of your team, capture it and share it on your business account and tag the person in, thanking them for the image
  • For more serious complaints, make sure your social media community manager asks for contact details so that someone can follow up with a call or email and give a personal response to the complainant.
How do you currently respond to your customers online? Do you think it's worthwhile to have a response plan in place, or do you think responding is overrated in a business environment? Let us know your thoughts!