How Social Media and Customer Support Work Together to Create Community

When DreamHost got started with this whole Internet thing, it was all about sharing information openly. Only a year later, Google arrived on the scene to help more people find more information. Small communities formed in niche forums, and predecessors to modern blogs were born but both stayed largely contained. Time passed, and the overall objective of sharing information openly – and quickly– didn’t change.. Online communities evolved just a few years later into something larger than forums or blogs. They were mashed together in fun new ways, and the Internet became a little less about sharing boatloads of worldly information, and more about…YOU!

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YOU – the unique individual – became the star of the show, and there’s a reason it’s been that way for quite awhile. While some said social media and the Internet have hindered communication, there’s no denying the impact and shift in culture. Individuals define communities, and communities define individuals as well. In the business world, communities began to define a brand’s identity more than “company culture” or any other old-school buzzwords ever could. Unfortunately, many businesses initially jumped in for some obvious business-y reasons: everyone’s doing it, we have no choice, free public exposure, and marketing potential.

Do you know why you’re really showing up online, andare you doin’ it right? While having a social media presence can turn ugly for anyone and any company, the opportunities for positive growth and community-building are abundant.

It’s good for your customers, so it’s good for you.

When integrating social media into your company’s customer support structure, have a clear set of goals in mind. Here are some goals to consider:

  • Be able to help customers as quickly as possible.

Social media never sleeps, so you should have eyes on it throughoutthe day, if not 24/7. When a customer can hop online at any time and receive a meaningful answer from your company, word will spread, because that’s exactly what they’re looking for!

  • Spreading the word – fast!

Not only will customers often spread the word, but your consistent responsiveness is online, in plain sight, for the world to see. In this way, every action in social media can have more amplified effects than you may have intended, positive or negative.

  • Building Community Consistently

Part of what helps build community is being engaged in consistent public-facing communication. One of the awesome things about a customer community (which you can experience in our forums, is that it can benefit from itself without constant input from your business. Of course, you should always moderate and offer official answers whenever possible, but experienced and loyal customers are an ideal extension of a social support team for any company!

Community Grows From the Inside Out.

Communication, consistency and community are everything. Understanding your customer base, and helping them understand your company’s values, are the most valuable and most overlooked benefits of social media. Building and fostering your customer community is a process that should start internally, in the community of your team members. Too often, a company thinks they realize the importance of social media, assign a specialized

team to it, and create new sets of customer care guidelines for that team, which is followed by mediocre results. Ideally, if there is a dedicated social support team, it should be an integral part of the entire support department  and share the same values and levels of customer care across the board. Make sure they’re not isolated, and keep them in constant communication with the rest of the company. This ensures that your company’s character and culture are properly reflected by your social support team. You can try to fake a certain image, but in the end if it doesn’t match the real values of your company, it will be exposed. For any company, social media should not just be a necessary platform for putting out fires and helping whoever’s most angry. It should be a natural extension of your existing support structure, and an opportunity to source the information you need from your customer community to help it grow.

With every company out on the same playing field of social media platforms, you will stand out by making the strongest connections, and benefit by being the best listener. Reach out, know your community and give back to them. They have the biggest say in your company’s image!

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P.S., This week I celebrated 4 full years at DreamHost, and couldn’t be more proud to be a part of our communities. :)