Communicating online can be very difficult. We are unable to see all the subtle social cues we subconsciously rely on during real-life interactions. Without being able to physically see these indicators, we often have no idea how our message is being received.
This is the case no matter what kind of conversation you are having, whether it is a private one with friends or family, or a public conversation between your brand and your customer.
It is so easy for things to get lost in translation, which is why when it comes to communicating online as a brand, it is important to follow a few basic rules of netiquette (internet etiquette).
Know your brand tone of voice
Having clear guidelines that outline your brand’s tone of voice will help every member of the business to communicate in a consistent way online. The guideline should outline the personality of the brand, and the type of language you want to use: do you want it to be factual, conversational, adversarial or humorous, for example.
It’s important to make sure all spelling and grammatical characteristics are consistent, and that any controlled vocabulary is clear, for all marketing, customer services and other external communications. Remember that you are representing your brand at every point of communication, no matter how big or small the audience is.
In an age where an estimated 86.7% of people in developed countries have 24/7 access to the internet, customers are accustomed to instant answers, and therefore expect prompt responses to their queries. It is common courtesy to reply to an initial message or email to confirm it has been received.
Even if your business does not have the physical manpower to respond to everything instantly, setting up an automated response system (written in a way that sounds a human and not like it has come from a bot), can be a good way to let the sender know their message has been received and will be dealt with.
When communicating online, whether on your website, via a marketing campaign, or responding to a customer personally, providing accurate information is essential. Mis-information will reflect badly on the company and could potentially cause huge problems for the brand’s reputation and credibility.
Communicating the wrong information online can also lead to your customers losing trust in your brand, which would then cause you to lose business.
In the same vein, being transparent and honest is a must. The awareness of fake news — as well as appropriation and greenwashing — is heightened, and customers will not be forgiving if they discover insincerities from your brand.
Statistics show that roughly 86% of customers will move to a competitor if they discover a brand has been disingenuous in their social media communication. This could be a huge loss for your company, and is so easily avoided by being honest, genuine and transparent at all times.
One of the downsides of the internet is that it provides a platform for everyone’s voice to be heard, no matter how offensive. Many people hide behind their keyboard and say things online they would never have the audacity to say to someone’s face in reality.
This is most problematic for brands when it comes to dealing with angry customers. The best thing to do is to distance yourself and resist the urge to virtually shout back at angry customers. When you get sucked into a heated online debate, this provides lighter fluid for the angry customer.
The conversation will get drawn out, and you might end up saying something that is damaging for the business. Therefore it is important to always stay calm, respectful and professional in your tone of voice.
Watch out for trolls
Although remaining polite and respectful is the best way to diffuse a heated conversation online, there are still some people that will not see reason. Despite your best efforts to resolve the situation, some continue to make it their aim to destroy the brand’s reputation online.
Watch out for these online trolls, and when the case is severe, you may need to block them if they begin to harass you online. This should only be the last resort however, after you have done everything you can to help them and appease their dissatisfaction with your brand.
Finally, as with any conversation, if you want to learn and improve, you must listen carefully to what is being said. Take feedback wholeheartedly and use it productively to improve your brand, product and services.
This will not only help you continuously improve the customer experience, but will also increase customer loyalty when they can see that you are listening to their feedback and implementing it in your business.