To quote the infamous Mick Jagger “time is on my side, yes it is.”

As the universe of social media and networking sites continues to explode and brands begin to fine-tune their integrated marketing strategies, it’s important to remember just how valuable (and costly) time can be — especially if it is mismanaged or ignored.

Time is excruciatingly important when it comes to using your social media presence as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. In fact, it can be a key factor in making or breaking your reputation.

FACTOID — 81% of consumers using social media say it’s important for businesses to respond to questions and complaints within a reasonable amount of time.

You’ve taken the time to setup your company’s Facebook page and Twitter persona. They’re shiny, pretty, and ready for people to connect with you. You’ve begun to interact and promote your products and services, and encourage feedback from your new and old fans. Everything is going along great, and people are starting to post their feedback, expecting to hear a response from you. Something. Anything. (Cue crickets…)

Let’s face it; your online CRM tools are an extension of your customer service, sales and marketing departments. In short, they are an extension of you — an extension that allows you to create customer connections quickly, organically and inexpensively. There is a caveat, however; a BIG caveat. When communicating online, people expect a response more quickly than they normally would via a website contact form or phone call. If you miss this opportunity to engage in conversation about your company, you’re leaving people with the sentiment that you really don’t care what they have to say — especially if they are sharing a negative experience with you.

Yes, the expectation to provide near-instant or real-time responses is very high. Yes, it does require an investment in resources — both in manpower and technology. Yes, it requires dedication and, no, we are not mechanical robots. But if you think about it, this investment (in time) is not really any different than investing in an internal customer service department, or on traditional advertising.

What are you missing if you do not respond in a timely manner?

– Chatter about your brand. If people are talking, that means they are interested.
– The opportunity to convert a sour experience into a positive one.
– A potential increase in loyal followers of your brand. Online feedback is
significantly amplified by the sheer volume and engagement of communities.
– The emergence of brand evangelists
– Potential crises (some of which could potentially be defused if caught early)

Still not sold on social media platforms as a CRM tool? Let’s turn the tables.

Say you’ve had a horrible experience at a local establishment or retail outlet. You’re frustrated and need to vent. You post your experience on the company’s Facebook page, with the intent to not only get something off of your chest, but perhaps generate a response. You wait patiently, then check back a few hours later. Nothing. You check back again the next day. More radio silence. What would you be feeling at this point? What is the likelihood that you’ll do business with that company again, or recommend their products/services to your network? I’ll bet the chances of your giving them a good referral are probably very slim, because of the bad taste that their non-responsiveness left in your mouth.

Successful companies have long known that well-trained customer service representatives can turn negatives into positives. Your online representatives can do the same — in fact, they can and should be one of the strongest voices you have out there.

My rule of thumb: Respond to others the way you would like to be responded to. Pull time onto your side. You may not be able to completely control what is being said about you online, but you CAN control how quickly you respond. And that is the best place to start.

“… And they’ll come running back, they’ll come running back to you.”

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