Most companies do social media wrong — here's how yours can do better

May 17, 2016

From small startups to the Fortune 500, every self-respecting brand has a social media presence. But businesses and consumers often have different ideas about what social media is for.

Companies tend to use social media to build brand awareness and share promotions and new products with potential customers. Consumers, for their part, see social media as a way to engage brands with praise, customer service inquiries and complaints.

"Social is no longer a new phenomenon, but a gulf remains between what people expect and what most brands provide on social,” said

Marketing VP Andrew Caravella.

According to a new report by his company, one in three consumers say they’ll go to a competitor if they’re ignored by a brand on social, and 36 percent of people have used social media to publicly shame a company for poor customer service.

“On the flip side, when a brand takes note and actually responds to its customers on social, 70 percent of people are more likely to use that brand’s product or service, and 75 percent are more likely to post on social about a good experience,” said Caravella. “It really is that simple: a single conversation can dictate whether someone will advocate for your brand or become a vocal critic."

Given social media’s rise as a primary point of contact for brands, we asked Caravella what startups can do to step up their social game.

What are some key things brands can do to make their social media accounts more social?

Many brands focus too much on crafting promotional messages and campaigns for social rather than spending time actually engaging with customers. Every social message is an opportunity to spark a conversation with your community. Use a platform to monitor all mentions of your brand, from @mentions to geotags to common misspellings, so your team can take the appropriate action on each message. Prioritize engagement and delighting your customers through each interaction to drive loyalty, advocacy and repeat purchasing.

Are you seeing any particular brands using their social media well, and how can other companies learn from it?

If you want to see a brand that truly gets social and is reaping the rewards, look to leaders like

, SoulCycle, and charity: water. Grubhub is a leader in social customer care, sending responses that are fast, witty and always true to their brand voice. charity: water does an incredible job of empowering their network of donors and fans to advocate on their behalf, using social as a fundraising and awareness channel.

Another fantastic example is SoulCycle, which not only readily answers questions and conversations at the brand level, but also encourages instructors to build personal brands on social. Instructors like Jaclyn (my personal fave!) here in Chicago use social to jointly boost the SoulCycle brand while building a personal following that keeps bringing riders into the studio week after week.

What is the biggest key to using social media effectively in 2016?

First and foremost, recognize that social is a communication channel, not a marketing tactic or an afterthought. Social engagement is a critical need for businesses across industry. This means that companies should think social from the start and ensure that their teams are staffed, trained and given the right tools to meet customer and community demands.

Without social, it’s just media: think beyond promotional messaging and remember the true purpose of building awareness, relationships and advocacy over time.

Images via Sprout Social.

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