“Social media” is a phrase used more often now than ever, but if you take a step back and observe, it’s clear that not everyone takes the entire phrase into account. “Social” is half of the phrase, yet some organizations use social media outlets as megaphones with deafening ads rather than as a proverbial person with ears to listen to consumers. There are countless reasons why engaging with your audience on social media is essential, but here are three main ones:

1. It humanizes your brand.

If you’ve been paying any attention to social media news for the past year or so, you know all about Wendys’ troll jobs. I know what you’re thinking: Not many people can get away with talking like that on social media. You’re right, there is a fine line between being hilariously snarky and being annoying because you’re trying too hard. Also, as with most things on social media, nothing is cookie-cutter and having that tone of voice on your social media accounts might not be for your organization at all.

Responding to people on social media doesn’t have to be snarky to humanize a brand. Some bigger companies such as Chipotle sign their response tweets with initials of the person responding. Yes, the ACTUAL person. For us at the Columbia Fireflies, we don’t do anything like signing our tweets, but we make sure to do our best to respond to everyone who contacts us. People want to talk WITH someone, not AT them. Listening and responding helps humanize your brand rather than make it feel like an infobox email account.

2. It provides useful information.

This might be a rather obvious reason to respond to people on social media, but it needs to be said.

One of the improvements I’ve seen on social media in the Minor League Baseball field across the board is the conversation happening during games. It used to be that teams would post a graphic about a game later that day, a lineup before the game, and a final score after the game. One of my main focuses these past two seasons and what I’ve noticed across Minor League Baseball is that social media managers are responding to people during the games. It’s time to stop pretending like we’re the ones playing in the game and that we can’t converse and listen while the game is going on. If someone asks where to get chicken tenders in the middle of a game, I will respond with that information. If someone says our parking is awful, I need to respond to thank them for giving their input and then give that information the appropriate parties.

So often, the first way people think of getting in contact with an organization is on social media and if those questions or concerns fall on deaf ears, those people will lose trust in you and stop supporting you.

3. It keeps your brand top of mind.

All I mean by this is that you show up in followers’ newsfeeds more often. Working in baseball, I can’t count how many times I’ve received the question, “So, what do you do in the off-season?” I have two separate replies I tend to answer with: either 1) “We host high school football games here at the ballpark, we also host walks, and we get Mason (our mascot) out into the community to several events,” or 2) “Try to stay relevant while there’s no baseball.” If you think about it, these are the same answers. Why do we do all of number one? To stay relevant.

If we continue to have a conversation and show up in people’s timelines and newsfeeds over the course of the off-season, people are going to have a hard time forgetting about us. I think of each post as billboard. The cars are the people scrolling down their newsfeeds and if they see a billboard (post) from us, that’s one impression we made on their memory. If it’s us responding to someone, even better because it will presumably be a positive impression due to us listening and interacting with fans.

Set a goal at your organization to respond to everyone who contacts you on social media. People want to be heard, and if you acknowledge them (even if it is negative) there will at least be some appreciation that you took the time to listen. In most cases, the worst reply is no reply.

Kyle Martin

Kyle is the New Media Engagement and Promotions Manager for the Columbia Fireflies, a Minor League Baseball team affiliated with the New York Mets. Follow him on Twitter @Kyl3Martin.