Using Social Media to Teach Customers

Classroom Chairs

Classroom Chairs (Photo credit: James Sarmiento (old account))

One of the benefits of developing relationships with your customers via social media is the opportunity to provide education.  Customers don’t really want to call you with their questions and concerns; honestly some customers may even prefer to look up the answer for themselves rather than ask you on Twitter or Facebook or other social channel.

The barrier to self service can be a lack of awareness that self-service materials exist or how to locate them. Say you run a dry cleaning service, and you’ve decided to provide helpful information on fabric care and cleaning (I don’t know, I’m making this up. Go with me here.) A customer tweets at 8:30 am panicking over a stain on her suit she’s been trying to get out since 7am for her 9:00 am meeting.

Here are 3 steps to raise awareness and educate customers:

  1. Solve the immediate need –  Step in and tell the customer there is no need to panic. Give quick instructions on how to remove the stain within her current constraints (meeting in 30 minutes, drugstore 2 minutes away, apply these chemicals and voila, stain gone in time for meeting.)
  2. Provide additional information that could help next time (Suzie, here’s a link to our site where you can get information to solve your stain issues in the future)
  3. Advise of relevant services your company provides (Also Suzie, our facility at 9th and Main opens at 7am and will take care of stains for you on-the-spot [pun intended] for a tiny fee. We hope you’ll think of us next time).

We know the spirit of social media is all about community and helping, and not so much about cold selling. However, in this case, Suzie knows that rather than spend 2 hours fixing a stain, she could save the panic and just head on over to 9th and Main next time.

River Pools and Spas has created a blog and educational section to help educate customers about buying and installing in-ground pools. Providing this information to customers, regardless of their intent to buy from your company, not only establishes them as an authority on the subject, but also goes a long way to creating a relationship of trust before consumers have ever stepped foot into their showroom.

Now, take a look at your business model. Could you do something similar?

When To Step In on Forums

English: Tech Forums Thumbnail

English: Tech Forums Thumbnail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, here’s a question. On a new support forum, how long do you wait before you jump in and respond to customer questions? When I look out across the vast sea of forums, the response times are all over the place. For seasoned forums, where the base is large and the community is strongly rooted, it seems that very little moderator activity will still allow helpful conversations to flourish. On newer communities, though, it seems like more nurturing is required to get things going. I can tell you that without any tending at all, a new forum is not likely to spring to life and turn into a lush garden.

My thoughts right now are that if someone in the community posts a question that could be answered by other community members, giving between 12 and 24 hours on a new forum will give enough time to allow forum members to step in and participate, yet be responsive enough so that members don’t feel abandoned. I’m also thinking that if there is a question that no other community member could possibly answer, that the moderator should step in within an hour to provide assistance. This is especially true in technical forums, where the forum member is trying to complete a function or action and likely cannot complete this action without the aid of another forum member.

Do you have thoughts on this?