As a growing business, it can be surprisingly difficult to know what customers want. You want to deliver a better experience for them. But what if you don’t have the resources to hire consultants or organize focus groups? Is there another way to gather the same information? Good news: you can collect useful customer feedback through social media.
The secret lies in your own social media presence. Your followers are already your captive audience, and many other customers generate chatter online about their purchases and favorite products.
Just by incorporating a few simple strategies into your current social media routine, you can transform your following into an ongoing focus group that’s more effective than you ever thought possible. You just need to know what to post and where to look.
1. Publish interactive content
When you post social media marketing content, you’re ultimately hoping that viewers will engage with it. You want to see likes, views, shares, and comments.
An appealing photo of your product along with an energetic caption may garner a few likes from your faithful followers, but most users will scroll by without revealing their reaction.
If you want that information, you’ve got to post content that your followers can’t resist.
Initiate conversations that generate feedback
Instead of trying to draw affirmation from customers by constantly posting about how great your product is, it’s more productive to create content that starts a conversation.
Try posting a photo or status message with a fun question that’s easy to answer.
Since these questions are usually a matter of personal preference, it gives people an opportunity to share their personality or maybe some small detail about their lifestyle.
Here’s a classic example where the commenters are obviously excited to chime in. Meanwhile, Sprinkles Cupcakes gets a peek into their customers’ personal lives and what gets them excited.
Because social media is all about interaction, some platforms include features designed to make certain interactions more entertaining.
Instagram’s question sticker allows users to collect and publish comments individually on their stories, like this:
This is a fantastic way for you to start building relationships with customers. Sharing responses is easy for you and gratifying for them. Plus, it encourages people to interact.
Provide a way to submit feedback privately
When you’re looking for feedback, don’t forget about quiet users that don’t want to put themselves out there on a public page. They might be more interested in volunteering opinions privately.
Most social media platforms include a polling feature, which is an excellent way to welcome anonymous feedback. These are often as simple as “this or that” questions that are fun and quick to weigh in on.
To create an Instagram poll, just snap or upload a photo, select the poll sticker in the swipe-up menu, customize the responses, and it’s ready to go live. Sit back and watch the votes stream in, and don’t forget to publish the results!
Use interactive features to educate and entertain
You can also use polls to educate customers about a topic related to a product or service your business offers. This way, you provide value to the customer while increasing traffic on your page.
Don’t limit yourself exclusively to questions about your own products. Take a break from marketing and ask “just for fun” kinds of questions like this one:
Here, instead of reading pushy marketing headlines, customers are simply being entertained by trivia questions.
Use customer surveys to get more info
Some situations call for an all-out survey. For example, if you’re in the brainstorming stage of product development, a customer survey can be a great way to get ideas from your customer base.
Platforms like SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and Google Forms provide excellent tools for creating surveys and streamlining the resulting data.
You can maximize the number of submissions by convincing more reluctant participants that it’s worth two minutes of their time. Enter every survey participant into a raffle for a giveaway!
2. Actively encourage customer feedback
We don’t need to tell you about the importance of making a good first impression. But one angle you may not have considered is that many people encounter your brand for the first time on social media.
One reason for this is that social media is steadily becoming the go-to place to find customer reviews and video testimonials.
Here are a few ways to put your best face forward on your social media accounts at all times.
No matter how large or small your business is, it’s always a good idea to thank customers for their reviews like Walls.io does on their Facebook page, for example.
Let’s face it — it feels good to have five seconds of Internet fame, even if it’s as simple as a shoutout from a favorite brand or company.
Some businesses take it a step further by featuring a photo of the reviewer along with the endorsement. Here’s an example from the meal planning service, Cook Smarts:
This kind of user-generated content is effective because it makes other followers feel welcome, which makes them more likely to engage.
Interact with comments on your page
Showing consumers that you care about their perspectives is a critical aspect of any customer service strategy.
If responding to multiple comments per day sounds overwhelming, think of it as a way to give your followers some positive attention in return for publicly engaging with your content.
When one of your customers goes to the trouble of commenting on your page, make a point of responding — especially if their comment contains a question.
Not only does replying to comments give your business better ratings and a better image, failing to reply comes with consequences. A staggering 81% of customers don’t recommend brands to friends if their comment is ignored on social media.
Remember, it’s not just one person that you’re addressing when you post replies — each comment is seen by an untold number of scrolling spectators who are looking for the same information. And it goes without saying that most of them wouldn’t have bothered to comment and ask.
Check out this example from Nordstrom’s Instagram:
Nordstrom’s reply not only received some likes (suggesting that others were wondering the same thing), but the reply also garnered bonus traffic when another commenter tagged two friends.
All of these responses reveal information about Nordstrom’s customer base and the value of their social media content.
Amplify good reviews
You can also use your page to amplify positive customer reviews. Joining in the enthusiasm of happy customers promotes good vibes and gives those rave reviews twice the hype.
We’ll talk later on about how to approach negative customer feedback. But for now, know that attending to dissatisfied customers is not only appreciated — it is simply expected. Nowadays, 42% of customers expect a reply from your social media team within just an hour of posting a concern.
In some cases, the customer has a time-sensitive request that they’re hoping will receive immediate attention, like this example from Twitter.
Of course, if things get more complicated, it’s perfectly acceptable to transition the conversation to private communication — just be sure others can see that you are happy to discuss any issues (more on this later, too).
Build a community
Once you’ve created a friendly environment on your social media page, work on strengthening that sense of community.
Some brands come up with an affectionate name for their fan base to unite their followers into one big happy family:
Posting live stream Q&A sessions leading up to product launches, or offering informational chats with members of your team are other good ways to bond with your followers and ask for their opinions.
Here, Microsoft used a poll to call attention to an upcoming talk they were hosting:
While it’s great to have a lot going on right on your page, there’s even more you can do to deliver that personal touch to customers individually.
3. Reach out to followers via direct messaging
The goal of social media presence for a brand is not just to get publicity and feedback — it’s also to build relationships with customers.
Through direct messaging, you can give more people your brand’s signature customer service experience without face-to-face interaction.
Here are a few ways to take advantage of DMs.
Connect with users who show interest
If you’re monitoring social media closely enough, you’ll notice potential brand loyalists who are consistently active on your page or people who go out of their way to give you shout outs.
Surprising happy customers in their DMs is an excellent way to go above and beyond in a way that will inspire customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Pop into their DMs to say hello and offer a small perk, like a discount or gift voucher! It’s an easy gesture for you, but it means a lot to them.
Social media is also a great place to discover individuals with a growing following. Aspiring influencers routinely tag businesses in their content, hoping to be noticed by brands that might leave a comment, share posts, or even consider sponsoring content.
Because influencers are admired by their followers for their taste and appealing lifestyle, exposure like this is extremely positive for your business. Customers trust recommendations from friends, family, and peers much more than anything coming directly from your marketing content.
Whether you drop an emoji in the comment section or DM them to offer free products in exchange for an honest review, your involvement on their account is important to them — and it can be a fantastic opportunity for you as well.
Address complaints from dissatisfied customers
Gracefully handling negative feedback is one of the most important aspects of customer service. Like it or not, customers will form buying decisions based on how you respond to those who have had bad experiences with your product or service.
There is a positive side to public displays of customer discontent. Each one is an opportunity to build customer trust by showing off how well you take care of customers when something goes wrong.
By responding, you de-escalate the situation, indirectly reassure onlookers that everything is under control, and demonstrate your team’s professionalism and dedication to resolving the issue.
This usually involves asking the customer for more information about their negative experience. The more you know, the better chance you have of avoiding the mistake in the future.
Depending on the situation, some level of material consolation might be appropriate. Sometimes a refund or a coupon code (along with a sincere apology) convinces customers to give your business another chance.
The goal is to dissolve their frustration and let you make it up to them. Sometimes the happiest customers are those whose issues were resolved swiftly and cheerfully by customer service reps.
If you want to take full advantage of the vast world of social media, go beyond your own page and learn how your products are fitting into your customers’ lifestyles.
When users tag your social media account, they’re hoping for some attention. It’s always a nice gesture to join the conversation, especially if you have something helpful to add.
Search hashtags to keep up with the buzz surrounding your brand. Whether or not they’ve reached influencer status, many people use hashtags to show off what products they’re using and enjoying.
As you can see from the above post, hashtags make it super easy for you to see what moods, products, experiences, or general categories your customers associate with your brand.
Track untagged chatter about your brand
Regardless of whether users have gone to the trouble of tagging your account or using a hashtag indicating your brand, there are other ways of getting the inside scoop.
Setting up Google Alerts is one way to be notified when certain keywords or topics come up.
More involved platforms like Mention, Sprout Social, and Facebook Insights (to name a few) offer analytic tools that allow you to dig deep into several aspects of your customer base.
Putting your ear to the ground and understanding what already interests potential customers is one main goal of social listening. It’s much easier to offer something they already want than to interest them in something else.
Actively follow topics and trends that interest your customers
Understanding why customers buy your product or service is like thinking ten moves ahead in a game of chess: it takes persistent concentration, but it puts you in a winning position.
So, get into their headspace. Become an expert on all aspects of their lifestyle. It’ll make your brand more relatable, and you’ll know how to offer value to your customers.
Case in point: Whole Foods discovered that many of their customers meal prep, so they decided to join the club.
Bottom line? Your customers are already talking — it’s up to you to start listening.
Feedback at your fingertips
If your social media content falls flat more often than you’d like, you’re not alone. But you may need to freshen up your approach.
Rest assured, your customers have opinions. All they need from you is an incentive to share them.
When you become engaging and receptive to feedback, your customers will pick up on it. They’ll see you putting in the extra effort. And customers that feel heard are much more likely to speak up.