A colleague emailed the tweet and asked me to respond. After a few tweets back and forth, my office invited this student into a small staff meeting to help us brainstorm how to do similar events to engage new and returning students.
It may take some time and some effort, but responding to tweets from your constituents provides an opportunity for a new level of social engagement. Moving from a simple comment or mention to an in-person conversation changes the entire relationship. Here are a few of the immediate and long-term benefits of our interaction with this student (and the same benefits you might be able to experience by responding to your constituents):
1. The student knew she was being heard. She didn't mention us in Twitter and she didn't send us a message, but we heard her loud and clear: as a new student at our college, she wished she had a better opportunity to meet other students. By us responding and inviting her to help us do better, she knew undoubtedly that we heard her loud and clear.
2. The student became a participant in the solution. If a customer notices a problem with your company or a community member with your church, one of the best ways to resolve the problem is to invite them to help come up with solutions. Since the student was the one who voiced the concern, we figured she probably already thought of some ideas on how we could improve. (and we were right!)
3. Engaging in this way creates a lasting relationship. Even after meeting with this student, our relationship with her continued. She was connected to our office and our school in a whole new way. Since she knew we listened and cared about engaging students, she knew and continues to know that we're open to new ideas and building new relationships. I still receive e-mails from the student from time to time about new opportunities. The same could happen for your company with your customers, employees, or church members. Responding to concerns voiced via social media in practical ways can launch you into a positive and long-lasting relationships.
4. The student's experience changes the way she will interact with other students. Since we heard her concerns and invited her to the table for solutions, we provided a new perspective of the college for this student. As she goes to class, attends club meetings goes to campus events she is going with the knowledge that we care about her. When other students have concerns or ideas, she is going to tell them about her experience working with us to create new events. She is also going to talk about the school positively and challenge other students' negative perceptions that conflict with her experience.
How is your social media engagement? Are you listening to your constituents and replying in appropriate and timely ways? If you or your staff need helping knowing how to do this effectively, consider bringing in a consultant to do some training.