What chicken bones have to do with social media engagement

 width=We handle social media responsibilities for several of our clients, in varying degrees of involvement. One of the things we try to accomplish is to increase engagement. However, the obvious choices to reach that goal don’t always bring the best results. In fact, sometimes quite the contrary.

Our social media teams occasionally suggest asking a question of our clients’ followers. In my experience, however, that does not always generate the responses you might expect. I recently was doing some research to see if that was an across-the-board problem, or isolated to just one of our clients.

In doing the research, I noticed one of our clients’ competitors, which also has a substantial consumer business, had recently asked a question to its 4000 Twitter followers. Curious to see what kind of “@ replies” the question had received, I used my Twitter tracking tool to check. I found not a single reply in response to this company’s question.

I did, however, find a flurry of tweets between the company and someone who had found a rather egregious packaging problem when they opened the box containing their product. (Think the remains of someone’s lunch.) Of course, this being social media, the customer had posted a link to a photo of the problem and strong statements like “never buying again” and “can never make this right.”

To the company’s credit, they responded apologetically, promptly, sincerely and thoroughly, requesting contact information and stating the steps they were taking to investigate the problem. (It currently appears that the problem may not have been the company’s after all, but related to a shipping issue.)

The takeaway is this: this company moved intentionally to create engagement by asking a question on Twitter. However, when things changed and a problem arose, the company was up to the challenge and responded appropriately — handling a whole different kind of (unexpected) engagement deftly and properly. Be prepared to stray from your editorial calendars. Even the best preparation in social media can still leave you facing unpredictable outcomes, and how you adapt is key.

Remember: social media should be a conversation. And you don’t always get to choose the topic of discussion. Be prepared!

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