Engaging your customers through social media can feel daunting.
It requires a steady stream of useful content, the will to involve customers more in your business, and the capacity to ask and respond to questions. And there's always the pressure to be there, 24/7.
With responsibility devolved to Marketing or PR, a tempting option is to bring in outside help. Tech companies offer to automate content around the themes you want to cover. Agencies will run your social media presence for you.
But before rushing to automate or outsource, ask yourself why it's called "social" media in the first place.
It enables people to interact, to share information, opinions, and emotions. People are social with people, not brands. If it were as simple as automation or outsourcing, then free customer service lines would be everybody's best friend.
There are already numerous conversations between customers and employees going on in your stores every day. So why not make social media a business-wide enterprise, rather than the responsibility of a department?
Enable the employee who has got the content, to share the content. Enable the employee who knows the answer, to give the answer. And encourage your employees to spread the word through their own networks.
Of course, it's not without risk. Any conversation can quickly reach hundreds or thousands of people, and unlike a simple conversation in-store it remains a permanent record. Sensible policies and practices need to be put in place. And it's essential that you've first established a culture in your business that lives and breathes the brand, so your employees are natural ambassadors.
But think of the upside. Your customers and employees would be intermingling and engaging in multiple conversations beyond the store. Pretty much all of your employees would now be on the frontline.
It would certainly make your business more social. What do you think of the benefits and risks involved?
Simon Uwins is a former CMO of fresh&easy and Tesco UK, and author of Creating Loyal Brands (2014). Find him online at www.simonuwins.com.