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There’s a local department store I visit and my lasting impression is usually of the friendly smile and welcoming conversation from Alice, one of the sales assistants. It always strikes me that many of the characteristics of these face-to-face interactions could and should be used more often by social media community managers.

Firstly, let’s summarise the elements of the in-store experience Alice provides:

  • It was welcoming, with eye-contact and a smile
  • There was no pressure to make a purchase, but it was communicated clearly that Alice was available to help should I require it
  • Having spent some time looking at a product, a helpful suggestion is made regarding some alternative options which are on sale and that I might have missed
  • Once I ask a question I’m spoken to in a friendly, jargon-free manner with some great advice, plus a couple of simple questions to further understand what I really need
  • The subsequent conversation is now tailored to me, it’s not generic and as such it’s memorable

So all in all a pretty great experience and certainly enough to move me from a ‘maybe’ to an ‘I’m definitely going to buy’ mood. It’s a far cry from those experiences we’ve all had with sales assistants who want to point you to the (sometimes) correct aisle as quickly as possible and be done with you ASAP. 🤦‍♂️


Of course what limits Alice is that she can only interact with people who are in the store, and her part of the store at that.

But how to take this into the social media space…

The audience on social media (obvs)

It’s clear that through social media you can easily identify and interact with people online who are:

  • Asking questions or talking about your products or services
  • Talking about competitors
  • Talking about the category of product you sell

These people will often be much further up the ‘sales funnel’, still thinking or researching about what they’re planning to buy, and arguably at a point in time when the opportunity to shape a purchase decision is high.

The opportunity on social media (also quite obvs)

But what if more brands tried to create a genuine equivalent of Alice via social media? (and I don’t mean a bot called iAlice)

Yes, almost every brand has some form or social customer service, but how many are employing individuals who are acting as genuine ‘sales assistants’? It strikes me that without too much effort or investment (in the grand scheme on things) so many brands could go ‘above and beyond’ with their online community management, creating vastly more memorable experiences. Think of it as more of a sales role.

How about…

  • As a principle for engaging on social media, we always suggest community managers ‘ignore the screen’ between themselves and the customer/prospect and imagine they were talking to them face-to-face. This mind-set embraces the increasingly realtime nature of social media interaction and encourages a more natural tone of voice
  • Let’s give community managers a real freedom to go out there and engage in conversations beyond those where the brand has been ‘tagged’ in a post or tweet; don’t butt in where you’re not wanted, but look outside of your immediate online ecosystem
  • Coupled with the previous point, encourage community managers to really go above and beyond expectations; tell a joke, give an opinion, spend time chatting about something unrelated, surprise and delight someone – be memorable
  • Don’t think of this role as customer service, thing of it as a sales role… but done in the softest, subtlest of ways through adding value
  • The individual might not buy today, or tomorrow, but you know you’ve taken the opportunity of that online iteration to imprint your brand on them

Ignore the screen. Be more like Alice.

These ‘social sales assistants’ would need to be regularly rotated and therefore could be a perfect fit for job shares. These are the type of roles that people often look to do remotely (perfect, it’s social media) and often people who are returning to work – so probably with a great knowledge of the business (perfect, we want good communicators). That feels like a win-win.

Cherry on the top

In addition to those benefits, the level of insight and audience understanding these social sales assistants would gather would offer enormous value. If you want a quick temperature check of ‘what’s happening out there’ or something to complement a more formalised ‘voice of the customer survey’ they’d be my first port of call for sure.


As you may have guessed Alice wasn’t actually called Alice, I just picked that name at random 😀
Photo credits: &

How much time do your social media community managers have to truly engage with your customers and prospects? Let us know in the comments below.


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