Why Your Social Media Should Follow The Customer – Not Your Opening Hours

Open All Hours

Can you imagine launching a business in 2013 whose opening hours are Monday to Friday between the hours of 9.00am to 5.00pm?

I’d love to see THAT pitch on Dragons Den. It would be insane. I can’t think of any successful business model still in existence that operates in this way.

In the years following the Sunday Trading Act – through to the internet boom of the late 90’s right up to our “always on” present  – the idea of customers only operating in “office hours” has become increasingly archaic.

So why is it that many brands social media presence says hello at 9 and goodbye at 5? 

A few weeks ago I was asked advice from an organisation who were at the early stages of using social to engage with customers. Their main fear was that people might contact them at weekends as “they were a 9-5 business”.

I challenged this. I asked them whether their website disappeared from search engines at 5.00pm. I suggested that if it doesn’t – your customers will still expect service , whether or not you choose to provide it. So – through the eyes of the customer – you are essentially a 24 hour business who only provides service for 8 hours.

66% rubbish.

I wasn’t trying to be clever – just pointing out that in a connected world many of us have stopped thinking about whether something is open or closed. It just exists.

An article this week made the point that many brands are still using social media “as a publishing channel rather than an engagement channel” and that this includes pushing content in the hours where customers would be less likely to engage.

I agree.

The issue is that most organisations have carried their old world analogue behaviours – communicating within “office hours” – into the digital world. But the digital world doesn’t work in the same way. Here the customer is truly king, we are open all hours. And there is nothing you or I can do about it.

If we think about our own behaviours we know this to be true.

Using my Twitter account as an example  – the most engagement I get is between the hours of 6am-8.30am and 7pm-10pm on weekdays. And on weekends 8-11am and 7-11pm. This will be different for all of us and according to social media channel.

But 9-5 is certainly not the primetime when it comes to engaging customers.

I’ve worked in customer engagement for many years – and I would suggest that the very best conversations , the real relationship building conversations – do not occur within these hours. They never did offline and they certainly won’t online.

And that’s why some brands are struggling to engage.  They are broadcasting to people who are not listening. They are attempting engagement on their terms and not the terms of the customer.

3 tips:

  • Think about when you personally are most likely to engage in conversations online. It might be when you are watching TV or waiting for a bus.
  • Now think about who else is competing for your customers attention in those times. If it’s too busy – avoid it and pick another time slot.  
  • Now start posting some interesting content and begin some conversations around that content. Repeat 3 times each week.

Sounds like really obvious advice. But if it’s that obvious , why are so few of us doing it?

Please add any of your engagement tips in the comments box. I’d love to hear them.

Published by Paul Taylor

I’m a facilitator, innovator and designer. I work with organisations to identify problems and solve them in ways that combine creativity with practical implementation. I established Bromford Lab as a new way for the organisation to embrace challenge and adopt a ‘fast fail’ approach to open innovation. Nearly everything the Lab works on is openly accessible at www.bromfordlab.com. I'm a regular contributor to forums , think-tanks , and research reports and a speaker or advisor at conferences and events.

8 thoughts on “Why Your Social Media Should Follow The Customer – Not Your Opening Hours

  1. Some of our most loyal followers are people we’ve engaged with through complaints. If handled well, it can be a great way of turning customers into ambassadors for your business.

    Some of our most loyal followers are people we support in return. It’s not a one way street.

    Depending on the nature of your social media accounts, an obvious tip is to get access on your smartphone. A quick holding message is all you need to deal with most ‘out-of-hours’ contacts. For us at Optima Community Association, it doesn’t happen that often and customers are usually impressed. And in my experience, it doesn’t lead to an increase in customer contacting you at the weekend.

  2. Thanks Georgette. I agree most don’t expect a response at the weekend although I think that is largely because of the lower service expectations of residents in social housing. Something I think we will see a huge shift in over the next 12-18 months…

  3. Great post Paul and wholeheartedly agree.

    A couple of months ago I received a tweet from an unhappy customer on a Sunday evening. I spent 40 minutes exchanging messages to get to the root of the problem, spoke to someone first thing Monday and it was sorted by 9.30am – the customer was very happy!

    The customer works so if I hadn’t responded on the Sunday it may have been Monday evening before she got back to me with more details, and Tuesday before it was resolved.

    I expect a quick response if I contact a company on Twitter, so that’s the service I want to give in return.

  4. Definitely agree. The demands on our highways service @esccroads are clear when the weather is bad…so when it started snowing on a Friday night I knew it would be a busy one! Think we sent/replied to around 400 tweets that weekend and people seemed genuinely reassured and grateful. Important for building reputation and trust in the public sector.

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