Talking with your online audience
Word of mouth is your most valuable marketing resource – and this still applies online. You may be posting great content and exciting images online, but are you really engaging with your online audiences?
Sometimes it can be all too easy to get caught up in ‘collecting’ audiences (likes, follows, and so on), instead of truly ‘connecting’ with the audience you already have.
Anyone who takes the time to write a comment on your social media, website, or elsewhere online, is already engaged with your organisation. Their comments may be positive or negative, but either way they present an amazing opportunity to create a loyal customer.
So how do you start? A simple like of any comments is a must, but replying to comments is even better. If people have shared your content or retweeted a tweet – say thank you, or give them a follow.
When replying to comments online, provide insights and value in the conversation. A follower might say that they had a great day at your museum with their kids. Say thanks, and if appropriate, let them know about family events coming up. But above all, be genuine. This is isn’t the time for pushy marketing, it’s a chance to show your kindness and friendliness as a brand, and build loyalty.
Finding Your Fans
Sometimes, people are talking about your organisation off your own platforms. Do a google search for your own organisation in incognito or private browsing mode, and see what comes up.
For visitor attractions, TripAdvisor is extremely important. Here are TripAdvisor’s own guidelines for responding to reviews:
1. Read the guidelines.
2. Respond promptly.
3. Say thank you for the feedback.
4. Be original in your reply. (No pre-written templates, please!)
5. Highlight the positive.
6. Address any specific comments.
7. Like we always say: be polite and professional.
While you’re at it – don’t forget to share positive feedback with your team!
What about negative comments?
It can be tempting to delete negative comments, but unless they contain hate-speech or offensive language, it’s best to leave them up and reply. Doing so shows you care about your customers. It also makes the good reviews on your page much more credible for the reader.
It’s not just about that one person who commented – it’s about everyone else who will see that comment and how you respond.
You don’t need to reply straight away (although the sooner the better) as people do not expect smaller organisations or companies to be on social media 24 hours a day. If there has been a long wait for a reply, you can address this in your response
Try to offer an apology and a solution if you can. For instance, apologise for the bad experience and say exactly what steps you will take to fix the issue. You could even offer them a free coffee in your café or a free return visit.
If things are getting very serious and not coming to a natural conclusion, you may want to take the conversation offline. Include a specific contact person and say what you will do – either solve the problem or look into it personally. “Hi Jake, really sorry you had this experience, could you email me at <emailaddress> and I’ll get this sorted for you, Alex”
Constantly getting the same questions? Come up with a cheat sheet of handy replies/facts so that anyone on your team can reply quickly.
By replying to people who do comment, you encourage others to get involved too. So your engagement should ideally increase over time.
To help things along, you’ll need to be producing quality content that is relevant to your target audiences. Make sure you have a full profile on any relevant review sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor.
Another thing you can do is to ask questions. Try twitter polls, or asking for opinions as part of your posts on Facebook. However, don’t go overboard on asking questions, particularly questions which are too easy to answer. It’s easy to cross the line from curious to patronising...
Encourage your online audience to ask questions of you too, “if you’ve any questions about this event, comment below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible”.
Above all, look at your online analytics and see which posts create the most comments. Tailor your content and your digital strategy to favour fan engagement.
Treat your audiences online the same as you would in-person. Be friendly, approachable, and interesting. If someone asks a question or says hello, give them a personal response and show that you value their input.