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If You Build It, They Will Come ... Skeptically
By: Mike Bush
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As flacks, we both understand the need for our clients to have a strong, reliable social media presence and the need for our clients to engage with the customers who seek these clients out. It’s obvious to us that if we help our clients cultivate relationships with their customers, we can build an army of brand ambassadors on the ground for us (if you’re looking for a company that has an effective army, look no further than yesterday’s WWDC, in which Apple products dominated every available feed on Twitter, Facebook, and just about every other site on the Web).

However, recent research from Allstate and the National Journal indicates that while customers expect and appreciate companies being involved in social media, they also question the motives behind a social media presence. To wit:
  • Roughly two-thirds of consumers surveyed say they believe companies should use social media for customer service functions.
  • Roughly two-thirds of consumers believe major corporations and political candidates are using social media to advertise, collect info on customers and supporters, and increase their own success (profits or votes).
So, how do we overcome this skepticism? Here are three ways that you as a PR professional can help your clients bridge the gap between Doubter and Fan.
  • Craft the message, but let your client’s customer service folks be themselves. No one likes feeling like they’re speaking to an automated respondent, and it’s important that folks interacting with your brand don’t get this feeling. So much actual communication, such as verbal cues one picks up on during a phone conversation, is lost in digital translation, so it’s crucial for customer service teams to be allowed some leeway to prove they’re actual humans.
  • Ensure empathy. No matter whether the customer bringing a challenge/complaint to the table is correct that they were duped, or if they are skewering your brand unreasonably, make sure your client’s customer service team shows empathy. People go to brands' social media sites looking for help, not a confrontation.
  • Show resolutions on public requests. If a customer came to a site with a concern, be certain that your client’s customer service folks asked for a resolution to be posted (or, at the very least, post that a resolution has happened). Don’t let complaints that have been resolved stay on social media sites as complaints. This can be a turnoff to potential new brand ambassadors.
Social media empowers customers to become brand ambassadors for your client’s companies. As such, it’s important for you, as the person controlling the message for your clients, that the message their customer service portrays to the customers is in line with what you’re doing.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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