Last Updated on 14 November 2019

POINT: Paul Williams

First, it is most important to remember that social media tools are tactics that support a word of mouth marketing strategy. So much excitement lately, how easily companies and customers can directly connect to each other, we forget that social media is a tactic, not an objective.

Whenever we work with clients who want to better connect with their customers or target audience, we first figure out what their customers want to know (the message) and where do they want to hear/see it (the medium). If social media fits that, go for it!

You need to have a goal. What is it you’re trying to do? What’s your long-term plan? Launching a Facebook page because it is trendy, or because some social media snake oil salesman is pushing you are wrong reasons.

If social media is the right thing for you, it should be part of your communication plan, just as you include press release, advertising, and retail promotions. You need to consistently offer relevant content.

It takes time. Social media takes patience to execute properly. Many folks hop on the Twitter bandwagon, get followers, but then get bored managing it, and stop posting. Why bother getting followers if you’re just going to let them down?

Worry about quality, not quantity. Even if you could buy hundreds or thousands of instant followers (don’t fall for those ads) you’d merely get a quantity of people. This doesn’t mean they are interested in hearing from you. In your social media circle, you want those who want to listen to you and talk with you. Don’t be fooled by quantity, go for quality.

Finally, make it fun. Fun for your fans and followers. Fun for you. Why engage in any tactic without making it fun and interesting?


The easiest way for a retail marketer to use social media is to offer customers discounts.

We’ve all seen this happen. A retail brand offers a special deal in exchange for a Facebook ‘Like.’ A retailer offers customers a discount for using Foursquare to check-in. This happens all the time because it’s easy. But just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s the right approach.

The more difficult way to use social media is as a customer service channel. It’s difficult to do because it means a retailer must listen, learn, and respond.

If a retail brand has any charisma then someone, somewhere is talking about it online. People may be saying good things or bad things about the brand. The important piece is for a brand is to listen, learn, and respond to these online conversations.

There are many social media listening tools for brands to use from Radian6 (fee-based) to TweetDeck (no fee) to a simple search on Twitter. (Get practical help using Radian6. Useful guidance for brand monitoring using TweetDeck.)

Learning is about being open to hearing and understanding what customers are saying, good and bad, about a brand. Many customers are using social media to vent about a bad retail experience. Brands that are open to listening to these conversations understand there is a kernel of truth in the most vicious of customer comments.

Responding is simply replying back to online comments and joining the social media conversation.

If you don’t already, follow Whole Foods Market @WholeFoods on Twitter as they practice the listening, learning, responding model beautifully. Approximately 90% of Whole Foods tweets are a response to a questions/comment someone had about the brand. The rest of Whole Foods tweets are promotional announcements and the occasional discount pitch.

Whole Foods Market totally understands using social media as a customer service channel because they listen, learn, and respond.