Talk to the Screen

It’s easier than ever to communicate with your customers, on any platform you like

Social media ­consultants constantly advise corporate clients to pay more attention to the “social” than the “media” in their online strategies. After all, it’s not the size of a brand’s following on a channel that matters—it’s the quality. And to achieve a highly engaged social following, businesses need to do more than post regularly; they need to establish a dialogue with their clientele, one consumer at a time.

To help marketers, Facebook, Instagram (which is owned by Facebook), and Twitter routinely roll out new tools for brands to communicate with their current and future customers. Here are a few socially savvy ways—both established and new—to kick-start conversations with your followers.

Direct Messages (DMs)

Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter all offer direct messaging, which is essentially emailing within the closed circuit of a network. Biggie brands monitor and manage these portals religiously, but it can be hard for small jewelry companies to keep up with the steady drip of questions and comments from strangers. Managed wisely, direct messaging offers brands a powerful, personalized way to market events, sales, and other store happenings. If your Facebook page is a registered business page (and it should be!), you can create preset greetings and automated responses for your messaging that will remain active during off-hours.

Instagram Video Calls

Instagram debuted one-on-one and group video calling—essentially its  version of Apple’s FaceTime—late last year. The tool has been embraced with gusto by independent jewelry sellers who do lots of business on Instagram (think bench jewelers and Etsy designers). What’s the calling feature good for? Discussing and displaying jewelry to prospective buyers who have already been DM-ing you on Instagram.

dashboard on desktop computerDashboards

Social media dashboards let you consolidate all your social feeds in one place and help you strategize posts, while also keeping your customer ­communications organized. (Among the most popular: Hootsuite and Loomly.) Twitter has its own, called Twitter Dashboard, which serves as a de facto customer service channel for many established retail brands, including Zappos. All dashboards corral questions and comments in easier-to-read grids and/or columns, and most show conversation history—a plus if you have multiple people managing your feeds.

Call-to-Action Buttons

Also known as CTAs, call-to-action buttons, which became available for all Facebook and Instagram business feeds last year, allow followers to buy product directly off a social post; call, email, or text a business; book in-store appointments; and RSVP for events—all from their own social profile. But CTAs don’t simply come in button form: Use them to engage followers with directives (e.g., “Tag the person this reminds you of”), quick polls, and questions to generate conversations.

(Martin Barraud/Caiaimage/Getty; inset: courtesy Hootsuite)

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