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Are you are searching for ways to engage with customers better on social media? Whether you are a big brick and mortar, or you are running an Etsy store, you know that your customers are essential to the success of your business. That is why it is important to take every opportunity to engage with them on social media.

While some businesses and brands are scared of engaging with consumers because of the dreaded negative customer feedback, if you engage with your customers effectively, there is a lot to be gained. Customer feedback, regardless of good or bad, will help you to grow and make changes. Engaging will also help to build a positive reputation, create a brand voice, and understand what your target audience connects with. And thanks to social media, it has never been easier to interact with your customers and build new relationships.

But let’s not just talk about the benefit, if you want to succeed at social media engagement you will have to take a proactive approach. Being social should not be a one-way street. Remember you are talking to people. It’s not about posting content and moving on from it. It is called “social” media. Do not forget the social aspect of social media.

When your customers are leaving comments on a post, be prepared to join in on the conversation. And do not just respond to negative comments and complaints. Take the opportunity to say thank you for positive reviews, reactions, and comments. When there are negative comments, make sure you are still being polite and avoid coming off as defensive or rude. Any time someone mentions or checks-in to your business, always “Like” it and respond with a thank you for stopping in or, if you catch the check-in in time, a welcome message. If a customer asks a questions, respond to them in a timely manner.  Typically, customers expect a response within 15 minutes or less. While this isn’t always possible, it is best to try to respond as soon as possible. Make it a goal to check your social media throughout the day and respond to comments, reviews, and check-ins within two hours during regular business hours.

Think about it this way, if you left a comment on a page and never received a response, what is the likelihood that you will want to leave a comment again or recommend them to someone else? Or, even worse, purchase anything from that business? Someone leaving a comment or asking a question on a social media account, is today’s version of picking up the phone and calling the business. You wouldn’t let the phone ring at your business and never pick up. So, why do the same when it comes to social media?  By engaging with your audience and being responsive, your customers with feel valued and more likely to interact with your page again.

And always remember, no matter what your industry is, you are allowed to show personality. People will be more likely to engage with someone who makes things sound interesting, friendly, and fun. Even adding in emoticons here and there can help your customers related to you.

With the advancement of smart phones, accessing your social media sites is a breeze. You no longer need to be tied to your desk to access your social media sites. Your phone allows you to engage with your audience anytime you are on the go and respond to your fans quickly and in a well-timed manner. When you are at your desktop there are great social media tools such as HootSuite and Tweetdeck, among others, to monitor active on your accounts.

Engaging with your audience can be a huge undertaking, but once you do expect great relationships to form and before you know it, a bigger customer base.