Nobody likes to be ignored.
And because of this fact of life (and yes, I supposed there are some exceptions to this rule) most human beings automatically respond to someone that addresses them verbally. In other words, if someone talks to you chances are that you will respond to them in some way.
It’s just the right thing to do. Because again, nobody likes to be ignored.
And yet every day, as I meander in and out of social networks like Twitter and Google+, I notice people and the brands that they represent doing the exact opposite. They literally ignore @ replies, comments, etc.
Mind you, I think it’s perfectly ok to do this if the initial communication is spammy in nature (ex: someone @ replying about some sex site or pharma pill out of the blue). In fact, I actually encourage that you not only ignore such intrusions but also take steps to flag and report them because it helps clear up all of our streams.
But back to my original point.
I’ve thought long and hard about the possible reasons and motivations for this type of digital behavior. One of the more obvious things that came to mind is that certain individuals and brands might have such a high frequency of inbound communication that they literally can’t keep up with the onslaught of @ replies, comments, etc. However, this is simply not the case for the vast majority of individuals and brands. And even for entities that do suffer from this affliction, it would seem that they are missing out on a golden opportunity for 1 on 1 consumer engagement by not devoting the necessary resources to address all of these communications as they happen.
Another reason that occurred to me (and this one applies mostly to brands) is that they are so accustomed to the traditional, one-way, broadcast approach to marketing that they simply haven’t considered (or don’t feel like doing the legwork to scale) 1 on 1 interaction with consumers that attempt communication via social channels. If you or your organization are in that mode, now is probably a good time adjust your strategy so that it’s a bit more in line with the current millennium we live in. You know, the one where your company saves money on call center activity, returns, and PR missteps by leveraging digital tools to socially engage with the consumer base.
I also thought of one other reason, and this is the one that really gets under my skin because it has to do with ego and hubris. I honestly believe that many of the individuals and brands guilty of digitally ignoring individuals that try to interact via social media channels do so because they feel that they are too important, famous, or influential to bother with individuals that don’t wield a strong social following of their own.
You’ve probably seen this in action yourself. You see an industry luminary (in our digital marketing space or otherwise) @ replied by a fellow luminary and quickly respond and engage. But if another user with much weaker credentials attempts to engage in a similar manner, their @ reply is utterly and completely ignored.
If someone did this in real life they would at the very least lose face with just about anybody within earshot. And at worse, they might get a physical comeuppance, because again, nobody likes being ignored.
Yet somehow, this behavior persists in online channels.
I get that nobody’s perfect, and I’m pretty sure that on occasion I myself have failed to reply to someone that has tried interacting with me on a social channel. But that doesn’t make it right and it certainly doesn’t make for a smart social media marketing strategy.
And on the flip side, personal experience has proven to me that when you take the time to respond to any and all comers, you quickly turn those loosely engaged consumers into increasingly engaged social followers. Sometimes, those same folks turn into paying customers and willing word of mouth advocates. Oh, and by the way, some of those non-influential folks that you choose to engage with gradually become influential. And I find that those folks never forget the brand or individual that was willing to engage when they were a digital nobody.
So if you’re in charge of social media for a brand, or even if you simply represent a brand via your social media presence, take some time to revisit how you choose to address inbound attempts to communicate with you via your social profiles. Then take a minute to apply some basic rules of common sense and decency.
Your reward just might be an incremental share of followers, retweets, likes, +1, SEO-friendly links, positive reviews, word of mouth customer referrals, etc. You know, all the stuff that makes social media marketing worthwhile