8 Ways to Improve Customer Relationships With Social Media

social media how to Do you tell your fans how much you value them?

Are you looking for new ways to say thank you on social media?

Give and take is part of any successful relationship–online or off, business or personal.

In this article I’ll show you eight ways companies are using social media campaigns to thank their customers and foster better customer relationships.

#1: Pay It Forward

Hotel chain DoubleTree is known for their cookie welcome at check-in–it’s their way of “bringing the human touch back to travel.”

On National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, they not only offered cookies to anyone who visited one of their hotels, they also used their social channels to invite others to spread the love by suggesting people who could use a cookie pick-me-up.

People could pay it forward by answering the question, “Who else deserves some Cookie Care?” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and including the #CookieCare hashtag.

lite 96.9 post thanking doubletree

Everyone loves free food and everyone gets to see it passed along in social media.

DoubleTree delivered cookies and sent out tins of cookies—and acknowledged the fans who were playing along.

Who doesn’t love a DoubleTree cookie? Sharing their signature perk—and letting fans be part of the gifting—was a fun way to say thank you.

#2: Give Back

TOMS Shoes is built on the One for One business model—for every pair of shoes you buy, they donate a pair to a child in need. That vision is incredibly popular with their customers.

To raise extended awareness about the impact a pair of shoes can have on a child’s life, TOMS created the One Day Without Shoes event. Once a year, TOMS encourages everyone to go barefoot to “raise global awareness for children’s health and education.”

When the company asked their customers to help them make a statement, those people responded enthusiastically. To thank them, TOMS collected footage and pictures from participants around the world and put together a simple thank-you video.

By highlighting customers and the difference they made, TOMS was able to give back to their own community.

#3: Own Your Mistakes

Zappos is known for its exceptional customer service. Even so, they’re not immune to mistakes. When an unhappy customer tweeted about a late order, Zappos responded quickly with an apology and a coupon.

zappos customer reply on facebook

Everyone makes mistakes, but what sets a company apart is admitting them.

No one expects perfection, but owning up and saying “We’re sorry!” is the best way to handle mistakes and show customers they matter.

Humility and sincerity go a long way in social media and show that you value and respect your customers.

#4: Say Thank You

Even big companies get excited about milestones. When fashion brand Burberry reached one million Twitter followers, they sent virtual thank-you cards to 3,000 of their Twitter followers.

Appreciating customers seems to be working. Today the company is approaching three million followers.

burberry animated gif

Thanking customers publicly and personally makes them feel special.

Each animated Twitter note was personalized with the follower’s Twitter handle and written in the chief creative officer’s handwriting style to show how much the company truly appreciated that follower’s engagement.

#5: Encourage Personal Stories

For the 2012 London Olympic Games, P&G created “Thank you, Mom” Facebook pages that included an app that let users upload family photos and write messages to their mothers.

pg thank you mom campaign

Becoming a platform to thank others can pay your brand a lot of attention.

The P&G campaign tugged at heartstrings because so many people have stories about how their moms made a huge difference in their personal success.

Providing a space to publicly thank and pay tribute to their moms gave people a larger sense of community. P&G gave attention back to their fans, followers, customers and viewers and enabled them to thank someone else as well.

#6: Personalize Responses

Carmaker Honda has a loyal customer base. Like any company, Honda appreciates that loyalty. When they created the #HondaLove campaign and invited customers to share their Honda stories and photos across all social networks, customers were ready and willing to do it.

Honda found a way to say thank you with simple personalized responses (human to human, not canned auto-responses) that are cheering them on.

honda customer appreciation tweets

Skip the Twitter bots—nothing shows appreciation like a heartfelt human response.

By taking the time to express gratitude with genuine individualized responses, Honda is showing customers and fans that humans are listening and that the company is truly interested in their customers’ experiences and contributions.

#7: Give a Shout-Out

Chrome Industries makes messenger bags, backpacks and other gear for cyclists “who live and ride in the city.” The company took the time to find their most loyal customers, and then sent them limited-edition Chrome Industries jerseys to wear around town.

They gave public shout-outs to the fans and customers who shared Instagram photos of themselves wearing the jerseys (using the #covetedjersey hashtag).

chrome industries customer recognition post

With simple appreciation, you don’t have to hire celebrities to promote your brand.

Highlighting customers who take the time to consistently engage with your brand—and share it with their own networks—is a great way to thank them for supporting your company.

#8: Encourage Participation

Vail Ski Resorts’ Epic Moms website gives families advice about travel, activities and even social media.

Knowing that moms cherish time with their families and love to share those memories, Epic Moms contributor Jen Leo wrote a well-timed article explaining how to use Instagram to capture and share family adventures (particularly ski trips, of course).

The article included pictures other people had shared using Vail Resorts hashtags and linked to the Vail Instagram accounts. Readers were invited to contribute their own photos and use the hashtags so others could see their photos too.

vail instagram promotion

Vail Resorts asked visitors to share memories in the making.

By providing value, Vail Resorts was able to inspire customers, offer them the spotlight and help them feel like part of a larger community.

Conclusion

It pays to be kind. Saying thank you with perks, public attention and personalized responses makes your customers, fans and followers feel good. That emotional component can turn a consumer into a promoter or a single purchase into many.

What do you think? How do you use social media campaigns to show customer appreciation? Do you have additional ideas for making fans feel special? Leave you comments below.

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About the Author, Keith Quesenberry

A professor and researcher at Johns Hopkins University, Keith Quesenberry has nearly 20 years experience as an award winning advertising copywriter and creative director for Fortune 500 and startup clients. Other posts by »




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  • reastes

    Thanks Keith! Slightly off topic…. Have you ever interviewed job applicants for a social media roll? What did you look for?

  • http://addingtonoise.wordpress.com Keith A Quesenberry

    Hi. Actually I was just talking to a friend of mine yesterday. Her company is trying to hire a social media director right now. They’re a big national company and are finding that it is not easy. Its not easy because you need someone with multiple skills. I would look for someone who:

    1. Knows social channels. Do they know the difference between Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, ReddIt and Digg? Do they know the metrics (or social media monitoring tools) to measure results?

    2. Knows social strategy. Do they know how to leverage social media for marketing? Can they or have they put together a simple social media marketing plan? Having Principles of Marketing in college or growing up on Facebook doesn’t count.

    3. Knows social relationships. Do they know the human side of social media? Knowing how to crunch numbers is important, but big data doesn’t produce big results without social intelligence.

  • http://www.antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Very good article Keith, Social Media is much more than just posting content or business promotion, and you have explained very clearly how it can be applied in another area.

  • Jenny Watson

    inspiring ! thanx @reastes:disqus

  • Rohit Guglani

    Hi, marketing is all about perceptions and not really about products. Your article reinforces this basic thing about marketing your product. And impact of social media is surely enormous in creating perception. Thanks for this lovely piece.

  • Rohit guglani

    Is there any cross road for Social strategy and Marketing principles learnt in college through KOTLER.

  • Rohit Guglani

    I surely agree Antonia, most of the small and medium enterprise here in India believes social media is all about posting some or the other content or business promotion, It’s really a good time for all business houses (small or medium) to realize the importance of managing their social interactions responsibly.

  • http://addingtonoise.wordpress.com Keith A Quesenberry

    Hi Rohit,

    Kotler has many good marketing texts. I do teach Principles of Marketing, but I have also developed an entire semester long course on Social Media Marketing. The thinking is simply so different than everything else we learn about marketing management. I currently teach the course using pieces from several social media books, but I am currently working on an overall social marketing strategy book that ties into and picks up where Marketing Principles ends.

  • http://addingtonoise.wordpress.com Keith A Quesenberry

    Thank you Antonio. Yes, it really is different thinking than traditional marketing. Even though you are representing a company, you are building relationships. Thanking people goes a long way like it does in our personal relationships.

  • http://addingtonoise.wordpress.com Keith A Quesenberry

    Hi Rohit,

    You can still share promotions, but they should be a smaller part of your overall content. No one likes a person who only talks about themselves all the time.

  • http://addingtonoise.wordpress.com Keith A Quesenberry

    Thank you Jenny!

  • http://addingtonoise.wordpress.com Keith A Quesenberry

    Hi Rohit,

    I agree, but operations and product performance is still important. If what you say in social media and traditional marketing doesn’t match the actual product experience, consumer social media conversation will turn negative. Perception is good, but it also must match reality.

  • Emily

    Thanks Keith. I still remember a couple of years ago, a child care company (i forgot the name) lauched a thank you event on microblog. instead of thanking directly of the new moms who are their customers, they sent a thank you card with baby’s photo and message on mothers’ day. when i reviewed the case, i almost cried. it was so touching. not to mention what the moms would feel.

  • http://addingtonoise.wordpress.com Keith A Quesenberry

    Hi Emily,

    Thank you for the great example. So often we as marketers get caught up in what we want to say about ourselves. Thinking of others can send a much more powerful message. Don’t we appreciate these small tokens of gratitude in our personal relationships? Social media marketing is about building relationships which will in turn build sales. I am sure that child care company kept a lot of customers and gained new ones from the word of mouth about their goodwill.

  • Barbara McKinney

    Great Article Keith! Valuing your customers is a big factor in a business, in the first place your business exist because of them. I strongly agree apologizing is the best way to handle mistakes and show that you care about them, don’t leave them on dirt, and try to ask them to tell stories about themselves i’m sure that they will love to. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://addingtonoise.wordpress.com Keith A Quesenberry

    Hi Barbara,

    Thank you for the positive comments. Of course customers are always important in business, but in social media you have to take your relations with them to a different level.







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