When you message a company on Facebook, do you expect a response? A personal one at that?

If you’re like me, you may be hopeful … but not banking on it.

Way too many companies, even those filled with caring, engaged employees, are automated when it comes to customer service on social media. You’ve likely seen the awkward results on the corporate or brand newsfeeds you follow – every consumer question answered in the exact same way, over and over again. Cut and paste.

I know, I know … it is important to use consistent messaging, take conversation offline, shut down the haters. As a fellow Page manager, I believe all of these strategies can absolutely be on point depending on the situation. And I agree, it can be time consuming to develop custom responses for every person.

However, in the midst of our busyness and need for control, it is important to remember that there is an actual human being on the other side of every digital message. One who has a problem, an idea or brand experience so big they feel compelled to write a company about it … often with little expectation for a return gesture.

So how can a company move from faceless entity to reflect what it actually is, a collection of fellow humans? By genuinely surprising and delighting its customers by letting down the guard and responding in the most genuine way. Addressing customers by name. Thanking them for being part of the brand family. Expressing appreciation for their enthusiasm. Making things right. Apologizing. Sending them a care package for their time.

Companies need to remember the basic premise of social media. To be social! This means making real connections, having dialogue and creating community. You just might make a lifelong brand ambassador in return.