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A month ago I wrote a post for Sprout Social about Social ROI and how the key to that is Return on Relationship, ROR (#RonR)… simply put the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple $’s and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through connection, loyalty, recommendations and sharing… and is used to define and educate companies, brands, and people about the importance of creating authentic connection, interaction, and engagement.

In this follow-up post, I would like to discuss how to avoid a crash-and-burn scenario that’s difficult to climb back from; here are four relationship killers to avoid:

Ignoring your critics

Have you heard the dentist’s saying, “Ignore your teeth and they’ll go away?” That’s so true and such a great illustration of how ignoring some problems just makes them worse. When someone posts a critique of your business online and you ignore it, the critic doesn’t go away, but your brand reputation can be seriously eroded. Ignoring any response to your posts on social is a sign that you don’t really care, or that you’re trying to brush something under the rug. Your policy should be to always respond in a timely manner, even if it’s just to thank the person for their insight. Remember, not everyone who views your brand’s channel will take part in the conversation. Many just want to see what’s going on, how responsive you are, and they’re making decisions about you based on what they see.

Socially disengaged C-Suite

Social media communication has changed people’s expectations of brands. People who use social channels want the brands they deal with to communicate with them on those channels. And they’re not just looking for deals and coupons. They’re looking for insight from the top executives, and they don’t want to have to wade through an annual report to get it. They want to know about you as a human being—not a logo.

These broadened expectations mean that it’s unwise to distance yourself from the social public. Social media gives you two huge opportunities you never had before—to listen directly to your audience for gaining insights, and to share your wisdom as a thought leader and a fellow human being. Executives who step out from behind their brand and are active on social channels (at least one) build more trust and credibility for their brand and also inspire their employees to do the same.

In fact, marketing and sales strategist David Meerman Scott noted in a recent article that socially active CEOs like Richard Branson, Martha Stewart and Arianna Huffington are prime examples of the benefits of social leadership in action, and how important it is to the forward momentum of their companies.

“The social connection helps these CEOs show the entire organization that real-time engagement is an important driver of business. “If the CEO can do it, so can you” is the unwritten message to employees. But when a CEO is not engaged at all (which describes the vast majority of company leaders, I’m afraid) the opposite is true. Employees are reluctant to use social tools to connect with customers.”

David is absolutely right about the importance of leading by example and empowering your employees to use today’s tools to build stronger relationships. Unfortunately the disengaged executive also leads by example—and holds their company back in its ability to scale social relationships that drive business.

Trying to be cute rather than authentic

Time and time again we see examples of companies that post things in the interest of being funny or riding a popular trend that totally disconnects with their followers and causes a backlash. Your brand’s social messaging strategy should be carefully thought out and align with your values, goals and objectives, so your posts will “ring true” with your audience. That doesn’t mean you have to be boring or stuffy—but those who are posting for you should have a deep understanding of your company’s audience as well as your values and mission, and use that lens for creating posts. Thinking before your speak is just as important on social channels as it is in face-to-face situations, and failure to do so is responsible for many damaged relationships.

Not walking the talk

Another thing that contributes to lost relationships is not delivering on your promises. When companies say they have certain standards and then don’t live up to them, whether the interaction is face-to-face or online, how can they expect loyalty from customers? It’s all about the experience, and everyone who deals with your company needs to know that they’ll receive a consistently great experience from you regardless of the channel of communication.

The speed of social word of mouth makes it imperative that your business practices are in line with your published values and mission—so make sure all employees know what’s expected and give them the tools to over-deliver to customers, vendors, partners and each other.

Using social media to nurture relationships effectively isn’t rocket science—it’s common sense. However, it still surprises me how many brands are still making the same mistakes and resist using social channels to do what all great relationship builders have in common: being good to people. #BeGoodToPeople #JustBeNice

Yes, technology is changing in ways we never imagined, but basic human-to-human communication has not. Find ways to use new social tools to be good to people, and you can avoid relationship killers altogether.

Relationships are like muscle tissue… the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become. #RonR #NoLetUp

Catch the replay of my conversation with Andrew Caravella from Sprout Social here: 

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*This post was written in partnership with Sprout Social. I have been compensated, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.

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