The Best Social Media Engagement Isn’t Automated

Small brands are always looking for new shortcuts to social media engagement. Maintaining a full-time social media strategy can be time consuming- you have to have an active presence on multiple platforms, engage with users who tweet at you, post to your wall, etc. (and, if you’re smart, you go the extra mile and engage with users mention your brand without directly interacting with you), and answer customer service questions that come through social media. When you’ve got a small B2C business, you’ve already stretched thin. But don’t be tempted by shortcuts to social media engagement. It’s better to do it well than do a bad job.

Automated Direct Messages on Twitter

Many brands mistakenly thing that setting up automated direct messages to new followers on Twitter are a good way to stay engaged while saving time. But this approach comes off as impersonal and cold to users, who have come to expect personal replies to their tweets. After all, social media should, in fact, be social, with a real person on the other end of an interaction. Twitter even officially discourages it:

Twitter on Direct Messages


How to Keep it Personal

Here are some ideas for how to stay authentic when engaging with your fans and followers on social media:

  • You don’t have to send a thank you note to every new follower on Twitter. But when people do send you an @reply, mention, or direct message, you should spend a few minutes responding to them personally.
  • Use a tool like TweetDeck (or just Twitter search) to discover Tweets about your product or company. Sometimes people will mention you without using the @ symbol, and the only way to find them is to use the search function.
  • Don’t block users who badmouth your product. Washington DC’s metro account @WMATA did this to @FixWMATA and it caused a PR nightmare.

Know Your Limits

If you realistically can’t afford the time or money for a dedicated social media rockstar on your team, then I recommend limiting your social media presence to 1-3 platforms. Some small businesses only maintain a Twitter account, Facebook page, and Instagram account, choosing to forgo investing in an actual website, because they know that the majority of their customers engage with their brand on those 3 social media platforms. They may choose to use their Facebook page as their website, and it works because they invest the time and energy in keeping it updated daily and personally responding to all user interactions.

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