I work for an online retail site that allows our vendors to answer customers questions directly.
Our buyers alert me when they know one may post but most often, I discover them. I have a group called “Authorized Vendor Representatives” that I put them in. This gives them a title in the forums for my community recognize that this isn’t just a regular community member.
We have a two main rules that we expect them to follow.
RULE #1: Identify Yourself
Introduce yourself and sign your posts with your company’s name.
If you’re creating a new account, use your company name as your username.
RULE #2: No Fake Accounts
Do not create fake accounts to post how great your product is.
Our community sees right through this and you will lose credibility with them.
Then we give the following advice:
Be an expert. Look for customers who need information and insight, and answer their questions. No need for an overt sales pitch - just share your knowledge and let the customer take it from there.
Be inquisitive. This is a chance for you to learn something, too. Ask questions to find out how customers use your products and what features they like, or just to keep the conversation moving.
Be specific. Customers appreciate answers that address their personal situation. Make your comments as specific as possible.
Be honest. Telling a customer “this might not be right for your needs” is a powerful way to build trust and goodwill. And it’s much better than selling them something that they later regret and return.
Be natural & personal. Our customers respond much more warmly to human conversation than to marketing material. Don’t be afraid to share as much detail about your experiences, background, and insights as you feel comfortable with. It’ll go a long way.
Be above the fray. Some customers may post comments that offend you. Some will be obnoxious just to get a reaction from you. You should counter any misinformation, of course, but otherwise, shrug it off. That’s just the nature of the Internet. Don’t give the trolls more attention than they deserve.
Be a good forum citizen. That means following the basic rules of the community. Keep your comments PG. Stay away from controversial subjects like religion or politics. Don’t get drawn into personal arguments or flame wars. Report obnoxious or troublesome customers.
Hope that helps.
Oh, and if some company that we don’t know posts a sale in our community, that post is deleted and they’re banned forever.