We’ve heard it said that it’s a small world—and social media is only making it smaller. What used to take days or even months to communicate can now reach its intended audience within seconds. I can speak with a friend in Australia just as easily as I can one right down the hall.
And social media can do more than just connect you with your friends. Through sites such as Twitter and Facebook, businesses are more easily able to communicate with customers, news outlets can quickly reach out to audiences, and celebrities can better connect with their biggest fans.
This valuable line of communication isn’t just one-way: we’re able to reach out to these businesses, news outlets and celebrities on our own in order to show our admiration or dissatisfaction, or to pose questions. Didn’t like your coffee from your local Starbucks?
However, reaching out to these groups and individuals over social media is not always easy, and you’re certainly not always guaranteed a response. With that said, there is still a chance to connect with them if you’re smart about which social media site you attempt to reach them on.
I’d like to note that none of these are surefire ways to get in touch with your intended recipient. Social media is a fickle thing, and with millions of users tweeting and posting each day, there’s a chance your post may not be seen by your favorite celebrity or fast food chain.
I’ve compiled a list of various social media sites and what ways they can best be used to reach out to various groups or individuals—whether they be your local Mom and Pop store or today’s hottest pop star. I’ve also included the ways in which they may not be the most reliable for communication. Check it out:
1. Facebook: Profiles for various businesses tend to vary—some are very well maintained while others show no activity since the time they were created. Larger companies tend to keep their profile constantly updated, though you may have more difficulty reaching out to individual chain stores or independent small businesses.
Big companies such as Walmart, Taco Bell, and Zappos are especially good at keeping up their Facebook profiles in terms up updating posts and responding to customers. Is a pair of shoes you’ve been coveting for some time suddenly out of stock? Post on the Zappos Facebook page and you could receive a reply from them asking you to privately message the company so they can personally check on your desired style and color and keep you updated on their search.
Smaller businesses oftentimes choose to use their Facebook page as their primary website, but that’s not necessarily a guarantee that it’ll be easier to contact with them. They have a significantly smaller staff and don’t have the resources to have someone keeping tabs on the different social media sites at all hours. If you’re trying to reach out to McDonalds, you may have more luck trying to contact the company’s overall Facebook profile than you would the individual store.
Another note: If you’re trying to send congratulations to your favorite musician for their album release or ask your favorite actress a question, Facebook is definitely not the place to do it. A page that revolves around a celebrity tends to be a fan page, so don’t expect any personal replies (or any replies, for that matter). The celebrity may post on their official page from time to time—maybe an important announcement about a project or an attempt to address a controversy—but they don’t spend their time weeding through Facebook posts to figure out which ones to reply to.
2. Twitter: Twitter is a lot like Facebook in that larger companies tend to be better than smaller ones at keeping up with their customers. With that said, because it’s easier and more popular to search hashtags or key words on Twitter, you’re more likely to get a response from a smaller company than you would on Facebook.
Companies on Twitter also tend to be more proactive about reaching out to both old and potential customers on the site because of the hashtag features. I once mentioned something about chips and salsa in a tweet and it was quickly retweeted by a small Mexican restaurant. I also know that larger companies also tend to use this more proactive approach on Twitter. Both Oreo and KitKat got into an epic battle to win a customer’s affection after tweeting that she followed both. KitKat then challenged Oreo to a game of tic-tac-toe, attracting attention all over.
Another company known for its social media tactics and customer engagement is Taco Bell, who has taken a more humorous approach to their marketing strategy, oftentimes tweeting nonsensical or witty statements. It also regularly retweets followers who mention the company in their tweets, which is a sure way to keep up engagement and customer loyalty.
But Twitter isn’t only used for superficial interactions. My professor told me last semester that while at an airport, he ordered a burger from a McDonalds only to find that there was something wrong with the order (I can’t remember if they gave him the wrong burger or if there was something wrong with the food). Before boarding his flight, he tweeted his displeasure, mentioning the company in his tweet. He then turned off his phone, and fell asleep on his flight.
When he arrived at his destination, he turned on his phone to find that McDonalds had tweeted back at him, asking what had gone wrong with his order. He replied and received an invitation to DM (direct message) the company. He was then supplied with a voucher for multiple free meals to any McDonalds location.
If you were interested in reaching out to a celebrity, Twitter would be the best place to do this. While they don’t tend to have personal Facebook pages, it’s very much in vogue for celebrities to have Twitter profiles that they update regularly. But like any other popular profile, they have thousands—or even millions—of individuals tweeting at them or following them, so don’t hold your breath over getting a response.
3. Reddit: One of the most popular features of this site is the Reddit AMA, or Ask Me Anything. It’s a part of the IAmA subreddit in which users offer to answer any (or almost any) questions that other uses ask. While they are open to anyone on the site, the most popular AMAs are ones conducted by celebrities.
Individuals such as President Barack Obama, Bill Nye (the Science Guy!), rapper Snoop Dogg, musician Madonna, or actor Benedict Cumberbatch have all answered questions as part of an AMA. They’ll usually announce well in advance before they appear on the site, so you have plenty of time to come up with the perfect question. Oftentimes these Q&A sessions will coincide with big events such as Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, an album release, or a movie premiere.
So keep a weather eye out, and you might just be able to ask your favorite celebrity important and hard-hitting questions, like what their favorite ice cream is, or who would win in a fight between them and Teddy Roosevelt.
Businesses also make use of the AMA tool, but it tends to be more for them to gain marketing information. With that said, if you keep an eye on the subreddit, you may be able to provide valuable feedback to companies whose services or goods you use.
4. YouTube: Companies also tend to have YouTube accounts to post various commercials or other video content. And while there is a chance that the company may respond, I think it’s probably pretty slim. If you’re trying to get in touch with a large food chain, cosmetics line, or any other large company, YouTube is probably not your best bet.
However, if you were interested in reaching out to famous YouTubers, this would be the place to do it. They tend to look over their comments sections and will reply back—though even this becomes less reliable as they gain more popularity.
5. Company Website: This particular method is probably best used for feedback and not for immediate (and sometimes any) response. Some of the larger companies have “suggestions” pages on their website in which customers can put forth some of their ideas as to how to improve the company.
One of the best ones I’ve seen is Starbucks’s “My Starbucks Idea,” which can be found on the Starbucks website homepage. If you have a product, experience, or involvement idea, you can head over to the page and submit it. The page contains a link to the most recent ideas, as well as ideas that are currently being put into action. If you decide to submit a suggestion, you can keep tabs on whether its been reviewed, in the works, or if it’s already been launched.
In the end, no social media site is a guaranteed line of communication to your favorite company or celebrity. If you’re having a problem that needs immediate attention, I would suggest calling the company. If you do choose to stick with social media, it’s my opinion that Facebook and Twitter would be your best bets.