A blog we came across recently looks at how brands can manage social media in a way that keeps consumers happy. We had a look at their advice and felt local governments can adapt some of their tips for their own social media interactions.
Before we get started on the tips, it is important to note that no matter how good your services are, citizens will always find something they will want to complain about. What is important is how you deal with their grievances. Also keep in mind that when a resident is annoyed about something and needs to vent, sites like Twitter provide them with a metaphorical megaphone that they can use as they wish.
Therefore, your staff should be trained in advance to deal with issues swiftly and politely. Which brings us to the next point: timing is key. In today’s fast moving online world, they will expect their messages to be responded to within the hour.
1. Avoid complaints by analysing consumer behaviour They say preventive measures are always better than curative ones. By analysing what users do when they come on your website – who is hovering on the complaint form or customer service page; who is looking for support; who is having problems with navigation – you can make your website more intuitive and prevent users from complaining in the first place
2. Social listening Find out what users are saying about your services not just on social media but also blogs and online forums and use this feedback in a productive way. “Ignoring social conversation can be dangerous; you’ll miss out on opportunities to build better customers relationships,” says the blog.
This is called social listening and one example of how to use it to your benefit is Wendy’s whose customers wanted more nutritional information in the menu. In response, the fast food chain released an app for just that.
3. Engage When complaints are made on social media, engage with them instantly, even if just to apologise and say that you are looking into the problem. This will buy you time to actually see what is going on and rectify it. Ignoring complaints or deleting them for fear of harming your reputation is the worst move to make.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is answering questions on travelling to Brazil via the @FCOtravel Twitter handle and the hashtag #beontheball. The foreign secretary too not only interacts regularly with the public on Twitter but even held a competition to mark his 200,000th follow: a great example of engagement.
Local councils can surely emulate this with topics relating to their residents. Leeds Council has started live chat on their website while Isle of Wight and Dudley councils are using Facebook to hold Q&A sessions and even public meetings.
These methods require just a little bit of effort and can go a long way to engage residents.
4. Create positive buzz Interacting with users will help create positive buzz about your website and services. Give them updates about the weather, new services, services that may be temporarily not working due to upgrades and so on. These are also likely to get shared. You can also ask for feedback: Messages like “Tell us what you would like to see on the website” is likely to generate interest as everyone has an opinion on council services.
When complaints on social media are dealt with politely and quickly, the same people who were complaining will also make an effort to praise your customer service and this will send a good message to others.
If your council has any advice or questions about using social media, leave us a comment!