Do you ever wonder how you can reach more customers in a friendly, community-minded, targeted manner—without getting too uncomfortably personal? The answer is more interaction via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Despite the fact that you’re acting as the marketing face of a company, you shouldn’t be afraid to interact with customers in a relatable way that reminds them you’re human, rather than merely a faceless, corporate drone. Here are three ways to reach out to customers via social media marketing and utilize feedback to generate more effective content for your site. #1. What Questions are Being Asked? When you post links to articles and other site content on social media, For example, say an article about your company’s community-minded policies related to CSR prompts customers to ask which organizations and charities does your company support, in the town where your headquarters are located. You might respond with a post about specific actions or donations that your company has provided as part of its annual outreach to the community. This type of post could be especially relevant around the holidays, as collective mindfulness and goodwill tends to be relatively high, this time of year. You might also consider offering a random, voluntary poll to website visitors and seeing what kind of responses you get. Chat boxes are also surprisingly helpful, since they offer a casual environment in which dialogue takes place without a lot of added pressure, due to the spontaneity and anonymity of the interaction. You’ll be surprised at how forthcoming customers can be when the format is casual and there are no expectations placed on customers to provide particular answers. Also, pay attention to what your competitors and clients of competitors are writing about. Consider responding directly to a competitor’s article with one of your own. You might also try emailing customers and key industry influencers with a link to your latest article, in order to increase the piece’s circulation and exposure—as well as exposure to your company website and social media channels, as a whole! How do you get in touch with these influential folks? Bloggers often have their social media contact information listed in their bio section or profile page. Reaching out may feel intimidating, but the potential payoff, in terms of business leads, is worth it. Furthermore, if you encourage readers to provide feedback about your content, you will get a better idea of what to write about in future posts. #2. Practice Social Listening If you aren’t familiar with the term social listening, it refers to providing a direct response to customers’ online feedback in a genuine and thorough way that demonstrates you are paying attention. The University of Alabama at Birmingham refers to social listening as “The most transformative tool for mining social media for quantifiable data that can lead to actionable insights. It can inform product developments and service offerings throughout their lifecycle, provide visibility into competitor’s offerings, gauge customer sentiment, and provide real-time metrics on the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.” In other words, social listening is a vital and necessary component of social media marketing. By failing to engage with fans and customers, companies exhibit a lack of empathy or willingness to engage with customers’ legitimate concerns. Although customer service or marketing specialists may fear that admission of fault amounts to showing weakness and damaging company interests, nothing could be further from the truth. By exhibiting a willingness to engage with customer concerns and admit to shortcomings, a company can appear more legitimate than a company that simply ignores or questions customer feedback. Social Media Examiner has a handy guide to handling different types of customer complaints, when you have to deal with the negative feedback; they recommend, among other things, including the customer’s name in your response and letting them know how, specifically, you plan to fix the issue—as opposed to offering an automated, generic response. #3. Connect to Your Audience’s Emotions One last way to utilize social media in order to improve customer service and product development is by paying attention to the specific campaigns, memes, and articles your audience seems to respond to the most positively, and to do more of that. Also, pay attention to the demographics of your audience in order to deliver the kind of content that will appeal to their specific interests, concerns, and emotions. George Washington University provides a few examples of successful digital campaign strategies, citing Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” as one of the most viral videos that ever circulated, online. Apparently, the video, which depicted a forensic artist drawing sketches based on how women described themselves alongside a depiction of a stranger’s description of the same woman. The strangers’ descriptions were both more beautiful and more accurate when compared to how the women actually looked. Apparently, many women could relate to this campaign, since it elicited 114 million views in one month and was the third most-shared ad of all time! This element of emotion is crucial; however, not all emotions are created equal, in marketing land. A recent story on Scientific American asked the question of what, specifically, makes a piece of content go viral. They took a sample of articles from The New York Times, first, finding that positive, awe-inspiring stories, as well as (to a lesser extent) stories that elicit anger, were more likely to be shared than stories that elicit sadness, say, or other less emotionally-specific responses. Another element that helps the ‘share-worthiness’ of a piece is directly connected to its perceived usefulness. Conclusion At the end of the proverbial day, the average person has spent a great deal of time on social media—about 50 minutes a day on Facebook, for example—so you might as well meet them where you know they will be and pay attention to their behavior, there. Marketing Land points out a number of different details we could try noticing in order to be more informed about their preferences: “The non-competitive products they enjoy, the websites they read, the music they like—these are all pieces of information that give agencies direct insight into the people they need to reach.” In other words, social media provides a great deal of potential customer information to us, free of charge. We’d be wise to pay attention and see what we might be able to glean from clues that are right in front of us, in plain sight. Image: BELCHATOW, POLAND – AUGUST 31, 2014: A social media logotype collection printed and placed on modern computer keyboard.