U.S. social advertising revenues are projected to be $8.4 billion in 2015, so it goes without saying that most companies are on social media.  But who are consumers communicating with, when interacting with brands on social media?

Working at an advertising agency gives me an inside look at the process of how content and creative images are selected and pushed through to our clients’ social media accounts.  But over the Christmas break, our Community Manager who typically handles social media took an extended vacation.  I was given a crash course tutorial and full access to monitor my client’s accounts while she was away.  I felt like the wizard behind the curtain on the Wizard of Oz.

Typically I wouldn’t want to work over the holiday break, but I do have a love for social media and assumed it would be more fun and not feel like real work.  I began monitoring social engagement and was a little apprehensive at first.  I’m the voice of this brand and want to make sure I’m representing them in the best way possible.  But over time I grew more comfortable, found the right voice, and grew to love the process of directly engaging with the end customer.  I laughed more while engaging with customers on my client’s social media, than I do my own social media accounts.

Most surprising is what I learned during the process:

Customers Don’t Expect to be Heard

Most of the interaction was positive, but there was also a mixture of various negative comments.  In either case, customers were shocked to hear me respond.  I find it both ironic and disappointing that most customers posted without expecting to receive a response.  If a brand has a social media account, they need to monitor it and respond to customers.  Social media is designed to be another form of communication, not a billboard blasting out adverting.  Customers want to be heard, so if your business has social media accounts, be sure you are monitoring them appropriately and responding to customers in a timely manner.

Customers are Engaging

Responding to customers created a friendly dialogue that would sometimes last for days – customers were extremely engaging!  Interactions ranged from actual inquiries about products and services, party invitations, and I even received a marriage proposal (highlight of my week).  I learned new things about the business that will help with planning, pain-points in service that we can improve, and what we were doing best that we can further leverage.

Customers are Loyal

Listing and engaging with customers and social media followers creates a level of loyalty no amount of advertising could buy.  I noticed a trend in the customers that liked posts/tweets, shared them, and commented.  Many of them were the same customers I had responded to about a comment, concern or question.  Most notable is that customers who had posted a complaint that I had worked to resolve, were the customers most likely to respond positive to future posts and tweets.  Customers build emotional connections with brands they like and trust, and that was most evident while engaging with them.

So now that the balance of powers has been restored and I’ve turned social monitoring back over to our Community Manager, I can go back to my regular duties of Brand Manager.  But I now have a better feeling for my client’s customers – who they are, what they want, and how best to connect with them.  And in that, I still feel like there’s a little magic.