When They Click LIKE, They’re Your Customer

by David · 1 comment

In my early twenties I worked for the customer services department in a large retail store. All day I’d be answering people’s questions about our products and our store.

I loved the job, and I learned a lot about customer service and turning unhappy customers into happy customers.

On social media, it’s tempting to divide your audience into prospects and customers. In some ways, this makes sense.

Your paid up customers have opened their wallets and bought your product. They’re customers who deserve quality after-sales service. And paying them extra attention makes sense from a sales perspective too. Once someone’s bought your product, they’re more likely to buy again.

Then there’s your prospects. The people who lurk around your social media feeds, perhaps occasionally replying to your tweets or sharing your Facebook updates, but who have yet to buy anything from you. Sure, they’re good to have around. But they don’t deserve the same customer service levels as your paying customers, right?


When I worked in customer services, never once did I ask anyone if they’d bought something from us before I answered their question. It never crossed my mind to ask this. I treated everyone as a customer. Whether they’d been through the checkout and paid for a product was irrelevant. By being in the store, and being interested in our products, they were a customer.

The same is true of social media. The moment anyone clicks “follow” on your brand, they don’t only become a prospect. They also become your customer. They’ve chosen to pay you with their time and attention, and they deserve a level of customer service.

Imagine you were shopping for a new party outfit, and you went into a beautiful little boutique clothing store. You browse through a few different outfits, and the sales assistant ignores you. She sits at the counter, reading a romance novel. You have a question. “Excuse me, I have a question.”

“I’m sorry, we only answer questions from our customers,” she says. “Buy one of those outfits, and I’ll answer any question you like.”

You wouldn’t return to that boutique in a hurry.

Your brand is what you do and how you act. That includes how you act on social media towards your prospects. Everyone who follows you, likes you or circles you wants to engage. They want to join your conversation. And unless you show them respect, you’ll flunk it.

People will judge your brand based on how you act on social media.

The secret is simple: Treat all your followers as valued customers.

3 Ways to Treat Your Followers As Customers

1. Give exclusive offers only available to your loyal fans and followers. Don’t only use contests as a way of boosting the “Like” count on your Facebook page. Once someone’s chosen to like you, give them access to exclusive competitions, contests and special offers.

Alex Packham, social media strategist at the British cinema chain Odeon, explains

“Competitions via social media are becoming more and more innovative, but brands do need to ensure that they are always relevant. We’ve developed a comprehensive loyalty scheme database where giving members exclusive access to competitions is a key to acquisition and continued engagement with the Odeon brand,” he explains. “Once they are members they are given further access to exclusive content and competitions, ensuring our relationship with them creates value from their perspective (opportunities to win great prizes) as well as ours (customer data).”

2. Listen to what they want. People like to know they’re heard, and it’s good for you too, as you’ll create better products.

As Sandy Carter wrote in a recent article on the Social Media Examiner:

“The future is all about hearing what your [customer] has to say and collaborating internally and externally to meet their expectations.”

In a comment, Carter continues:

“Listening is one of the main steps many companies overlook because they are so focused on ‘pushing out their message’. Listening asks us to participate, and be part of a conversation.”

3. Give them the “product” they expect from you – the feelings they want to feel about your brand and the information they want from you. It’s a bit like try before you buy. Your followers are trying on your brand for size. You are on trial, so don’t mess this up.

Mike McGrail of The Social Penguin writes:

“I want a Ferrari. I cannot afford a Ferrari, and if I keep spending my time writing this blog, I may never be able to (sob). However, I love the brand and consume a lot of their content online. I’m a new age customer of Ferrari. If someone asks me what the coolest car ever is, I will tell them that it is the Ferrari Testarossa. […] If I was to have a rotten experience with Ferrari via social media, it would absolutely taint my view of the brand. If I felt that Ferrari were churning out awful content just for the sake of creating content, a little bit of my love for Ferrari would die. Fast forward again and I’ve sold The Social Penguin Blog for billions – I finally have the money to buy my Ferrari. Except my yearning Ferrari passion has dwindled due to poor customer service. I buy a Lamborghini instead. If only Ferrari had answered my tweet…”

Now, Your Turn

  • Do you think of your followers as customers?
  • What are your top tips for rewarding the loyalty, engagement and attention of your fans and followers?

David is Social Caffeine’s acting editor. He’s British, but we don’t hold that against him.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mike McGrail August 1, 2012 at 2:19 am

Hi Dave,

Great read! And thanks for quoting me.



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