Being a fan or a follower in an online community can sometimes be tough. You’re loyal to a brand or company, you retweet what they post, you like their statuses, you comment on photos, but in the end sometimes you feel like you’re nothing more than a click on their page. As a business, sometimes with a growing or large community it’s practically impossible to respond to everyone. Finding that balance between just being a Facebook fanpage and actually creating relationships and interacting with fans can be difficult. Providing customer service in a fast paced world can be a huge undertaking (read more on this topic in Let it Rock: Curating Your Social Media for the Best Customer Service Experience). So I’m going to talk about a small step that has been key for me, as a customer, in growing my trust, loyalty and respect for a brand or organization: Personalization. This may seem so simple or trivial- but let me tell you, it makes all the experience. Here’s a personal story: I’m an online shopping addict. I love scouring the Internet for good deals and the latest trends. I’m always worried about little issues ordering online (if the size will fit, the return policy, if I will like it in person, etc). I’ve had a few bad experiences so I usually stick to stores that I’ve ordered from numerous times before. Recently, though, I went out on a limb and ordered from a company I never had before. And it was an awesome experience! Why? In part due to personalization! After an easy checkout, super fast delivery and the perfect fit, I wanted to let the company know I was happy with my experience. The fastest way to do this was through social media. Although you can write reviews on websites, there’s definitely a trend towards sharing your stories with an online community. There’s a bond, as cheesy as this sounds, created by all members of an online community. Closely related to a brand community, a virtual group is created, which includes the company, where everyone can go and share their appreciation for a brand. So I let them know I was happy! I thanked them for their selection and speed and posted it to their Facebook wall. To be honest, I didn’t really expect a response. With hundreds of thousands of fans, it can be hard for a social media team to sort through it all. Yet to my surprise, within a few hours I had a notification that they had commented on it. It wasn’t just a “thanks!”, it was a conversation starter! They told me how much they appreciated the kind words, they asked me what I had ordered, they started and entire conversation and they addressed me by name. Why is this important? Because through creating even a short conversation with a current or potential customer, you’re letting them know that they aren’t just a number on a page. They’re an important and essential facet to your organization- because without them, where would you be? Because I had already had such a great experience with them, I had already decided that I would purchase from them in the future. But the small conversation that someone took the time to have with me further confirmed my future actions. That can make all the difference in a customer who was on the fence about your company. I urge you to pay attention closely to your social media outlets, to look and listen to what your fans are saying, and to respond personally to them. If you don’t have someone who is fully or partially dedicated to doing this, I suggest looking into a Community Manager. Check out our post, Is a Community Manager the Solution You’re Seeking?, to understand what they do and get your thinking about it!