I am a social media fan…or junkie. However you want to phrase it. Twitter is one of the fastest ways to get a hold of me. Facebook is the best way to see my life in pictures.   Before they became uncool I had a MySpace account and a Xanga blog.  I love “social” anything, and I love social media.

But the term “social media” only touches on what’s really at the heart of it. Maybe a better motto would be “I love instant.” Texting and chat to me are the greatest things since Brad Pitt – or Justin Bieber depending on your age.  Not only do they allow me to multi-task, but I almost always get a faster answer.  I absolutely love my iPhone because I can snap a shot of my super cute 15-month-old and immediately post that sucker to Facebook, where attentive relatives will have posted expected exclamations of adoration by my next login.  I like that I can go for a run using my RunKeeper app and as soon as I hit the complete button, there are stats on how far I ran, how many calories I burned and a link to the route I took – instantly.  And don’t even get me started on Netflix.  Mad Men through my Blu-ray player to my TV whenever I want it? Yes please.  Heck, just yesterday I deposited a check from the car by snapping a picture of it. Instantly, the money is in my account.

gsmi.jpgInstant is becoming expected, wherever we go.  People are sharing their thoughts, their photos, their lives in the moment.   And I think instant connection is at the heart of it.  People like to be seen and heard. They enjoy getting responses and attention.  People are human.  And humans love to connect with humans.

I think this is important to keep in mind as companies and specifically support centers take a long, hard look at social media and ask if it’s for them – if it’s worth their time – if it’s safe to be there.  I’m no IT expert by any means, but I got a really great snapshot of how best to listen and respond at last month’s Social Media Strategies Summit (SMSS) hosted by GSMI in Boston.

Since SMSS is focused on social media, there was of course acacophony of 140 character blips expressing attendees’ reactions to and thoughts about the content, the snacks, the giveaways…everything.  At a conference where the attendees are used to being connected all day, it was no surprise that outlets quickly become a hot commodity.  Those who thought far enough ahead parked themselves at a table next to an outlet.  However, this left a lot of registrants anxious about the battery life of their laptops.  One attendee took it upon themself to tweet about the apparent lack of thought in having a social media conference where outlet limitations prevented some from engaging in social media during the conference.  A couple fellow attendees retweeted the thought, but it was quickly engulfed by all the other tweets surrounding the conference.

So, I was quite impressed when I showed up for day two to see that almost every conference table had not only a power strip but also a modem (apparently someone tweeted about slow internet connection too).  The technical support team at SMSS had been listening. But that’s only half of the battle. They listened and then they responded as quickly as they could.  The next day they got tweets of acclimation from conference attendees. They were able to practice what they preached and it worked.

We all know ways of communicating are changing so fast that than we can barely keep up.  One thing is certain – what used to be private conversations are now painfully public.  When someone is unhappy with your brand, they don’t just tell their friend, they tell their “friends” – all 900+ of them on Facebook.  Or they tweet to the universe how they feel about your support skills.  If you’re not there listening, you won’t be there to respond either.  Today’s customers expect responses – instantly. No longer are they happy with simply sending an e-mail and crossing their fingers for a response. They want a real response, in real-time.

And sure, if you’re there, people will take the time to tell you when you’ve failed their expectations or when their unhappy. But they’ll also be there to tell you what is working as well and praise you when you fix something.  As Jeffrey Hayzlett so aptly stated at the conference, “When you start to engage with people they start to educate you about your product.”  Listening will also educate you about your service.  Trust me.  Nothing comes across louder than someone who is unhappy with the service they’ve received.

Here at Bomgar, I love interacting with our customers.  Nothing beats getting a big shout out from a happy fan. And sure, it stinks to hear when someone is unhappy with us, but it’s also an opportunity to take something bad and make it something awesome – as “instantly” as we can.

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Liz Richardson