Customers are the heartbeat of any business. No matter how good your marketing is, no matter how well your sales and support teams perform, you need to be constantly attracting new customers and retaining current ones. Otherwise, your business will tank.

While most businesses now understand that a strong presence on social media is essential, there’s too much of an emphasis on social broadcasting, rather than real engagement. In my experience, this is a mistake. There are many reasons why a customer might find you and convert (sign up) in the first place, but what keeps customers coming back for more is one thing above all others: how they are treated.

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If you treat customers well and engage with them on a personal level, they will stick with your company, even when times are tough. Not only that, but they will also act as your brand advocates when you continue to engage with them on regular level.

Here are some tricks I’ve learned that help businesses engage with customers on social media in a way that feel natural and gets real results.

  • Use a Human Tone

Speak naturally.

I know, it sounds so simple, and you might even think that your social messaging already sounds natural. But take a closer look.

Using a human tone extends to “support” situations too. In other words, it means eliminating pre-written messages that ask customers to email their questions or issues to your customer service team. Instead, hire or train the necessary staff to interact personally with each customer and actually answer their question on social media.

Even airlines and restaurants–two types of businesses that used to be known for being hospitable in person but inhospitable over the phone–are using social media as a customer service tool where they interact with customers directly, answer questions, and sometimes even just have a conversation. And software is evolving to support these efforts. That’s why even social CRMs are moving the focus from social selling exclusively to a broad combination of integrated social tools that work across sales, marketing and support.

Not only does using a human tone help to engage customers, it also creates scenarios that have the potential of going viral. Your unconditional support and high levels of engagement on social media will be obvious to your customers’ followers, and if they share a certain interaction and add their own comments, you might end up with a viral marketing campaign you didn’t even plan!

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  • Ask for Opinions and Suggestions

You are a business and everything you do at your company is for your target audiences, so why not actually go to them and ask them for their opinions and suggestions? Don’t just announce new features over social media. Instead, use social channels to ask for advice.

Again, it’s all about conversations.

Asking for opinions helps to validate current and potential customers and also build your image as an audience-friendly brand. Customer need to know that their opinions are valued.

I love how Moz.com always asks their customers on social media about their experience with the tool, then makes changes in direct response to user feedback. They are open about listening to their customers and always ready to take responsibility and make changes. This not only makes their customers love them, but it increases retention dramatically.

  • Educate

This is another very important area where I have seen many businesses fail. Social media is important but it’s not only about giving better customer service, speaking naturally or asking for advice. Social avenues are two-way streets. If you are asking for advice, you have to give what you have in return.

I’m not talking about giveaways but real, useful information. The idea is to share info with your social audiences. The information can be related to your product and how one can use to get the maximum advantage out of it or maybe about the industry in general, including your experience with other apps, new strategies and trends in technology or even social media itself.

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Here is how Clickdesk.com usually educates their audience about the customer support and live chat industry in general, but also about more general marketing topics such as email newsletters. I think when you not only educate about your product but talk about other topics related to your industry, you create a brand that’s more like a news source and less like a “look-at-me” business.

  • Build Consistency

This is the most difficult part of the whole customer engagement process on social media. The idea is to create the level of consistency in your process. Obviously, you cannot stay on social media all the time but what if you stay active for few days and after that you are gone for days before reappearing? That’s hardly an optimal situation. Sporadic engagement is even worse that no engagement.

The idea is to create consistency so that your audience knows when they can expect a reply from you and what it might consist of. This means trying to make a calendar and following it religiously. This will not only make your customers happy but it will also encourage other potential customers to try you out and convert into paying customers.

I love how brands like Lulus and Tobi act on their social media accounts. They do interact with customers, update their audience about new arrivals and more, but they have a set time for doing all of these things. That way, their customers know when to expect engagement. When done right, this even creates a healthy sense of anticipation!

It should go without saying that all of these tricks for social engagement are in-tune with broader strategies such as V3B’s . When executed correctly, they also work in perfect parallel with influencer programs. As V3B correctly says, “people trust people, they don’t tend to trust marketers. ” Remember that social media is not only a support channel. If you play it smart, you will retain your customers for longer period of time and new customers will keep coming just because of the impressive level and depth of your company’s social engagement.

Do you know other tricks for social engagement? I’d love to hear them in the comments section.

Author Bio:

David Campbell blogs about customer service trends for ClickDesk live chat and helpdesk software. He is an active freelance writer and his other interests include organic SEO and growth hacking.