Today, thanks to the social media-sphere, brands are more closely connected to consumers than ever before in the history of the inter webs.

Although tweets and wall posts haven’t replaced all forms of corporate communication, they’ve become an easy and widely-used way for consumers to vent or praise a company in an open forum for all to see. But that’s not all. Customers today expect brands to not only receive their feedback, but over 70% also expect interaction via personal response, according to most surveys. And over half of those want their Tweet responded to in under an hour.

Given this raising trend of need for instant feedback, it’s important for brands to acquiesce by having a protocol for such external communication. If a customer publically compliments a brand, best course is to make them even happier and thank them right away. If someone has a complaint, make it right by addressing it and offering up a solution so that they and other could see that you care.

Okay, so responding to social media follower in a given. But how? What should you say? In what format? Do you offer a solution right there or direct Tweeters to a form or a phone number? These are all questions that will help craft an eventually solid and seamless feedback communication strategy.

Respond to Everything

Questions should be answered. Compliments should be thanked. Even negative feedback should not attempt to be brushed under the rug. Acknowledging a comment, bad or good, may even impress other followers by your brand’s attention to customer service.

Speak in Your Brand’s Voice

Don’t respond to feedback as an individual. Give your brand the mic. Also, make sure that voice flows in a consistent format to the one used in other forms of content, like your website, blogs and social posts. If your brand tends to have a slightly casual, cheeky tone, continue that style in social media customer engagements.

Offer a Solution

If you receive a nice compliment online, great. Thank them and perhaps offer up something cool, like a retweet or a link to some relevant content they might like or a pony ride. For a question or compliant, the best gift is a solution. Answer customer questions and reply to negative comments in attempt to rectify the situation. Not everything will resolve, but perhaps other loyal customers or new prospects will see and respect your brand’s attentive service, which could add great brand value and even get more followers.

Define a Next Step

If a solution cannot be met via social media conversation, or you prefer to take those dialogues offline – no problem. Offer up a next phase of the process that’s off the public radar, either by filling out a form or offering a phone number to call for personal assistance. Make sure forms get followed up in a timely manner on or run the risk of more negativity.

Talking back may have been frowned upon in grade school but, on social media, it’s a best practice. Craft your approach for responding to social media followers and get it humming. Your customers and followers will surely notice.