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Several years ago I had an interesting, annoying, local small business fail. I was in the country for the weekend – many of you know I live in Garnett, which is a rural Kansas town of about 3500 people and about 20,000 cows, an hour outside Kansas City. My mother was here for Mother’s Day and there was a surprisingly attractive spot here that served brunch on weekends. (A miracle in a town this size.) So on Facebook, which is where they have a presence (no website of course, the bane of my existence when it comes to small biz), I asked them if they were open on Mother’s Day for brunch. This was pretty much a very basic, yes or no type of question that could be easily answered.

They Liked it.

That was all. No “yes, we are” or “no, we’re closed” not to mention “thanks for asking.” Just a thumbs up to the question? How utterly frustrating and kind of a time-waster all round. Naturally, I told my Twitter friends about this unexpected SM fail, and some of the replies were quite amusing:

I wanted to point this out to make you think about your own social media use when it comes to customer or prospect questions. Are you using these channels as a place for push marketing? Or as an easy customer service hotline?

You should be doing BOTH, if you’re on Twitter or Facebook at all. To blast out stuff you want people to buy, do or share, yet ignore basic questions from people following you is kind of crass. To Like a question, but not deign to answer it is strange, and though to you it could mean “We have seen your question” to the person inquiring, they may not know what to make of it. And maybe that’s not what you mean by liking a comment – it’s far too vague for a customer service scenario, is my point.

Later on the business did answer, and with lots of details. Possibly they Liked in lieu of having an immediate answer – but the lesson here is to think about what your customer will think about that, not what’s in your head. Waiting for an answer that came later, would have been better as liking my comment just confused me.

Use social media like the person you are, act the way you’d expect others to act if you interacted with them, and online communications will run a little smoother. Pushing the Like button on Facebook or Twitter is easy… but so is answering and saying “Let me check…”, asking a simple question in return or connecting the person with someone else in your company who has the answer or can help if you don’t have the answers.