A few thoughts on Social Media–Part 1

If you would have approached a business owner, a celebrity, a politician 15 years ago, and told them, “ok, I have a technology which allows you to listen to what your customers are saying about your product, your competitor’s product, and give you  insight into what they value most in their buying decisions.”  Essentially, you have just offered them the holy grail of marketing… to know EXACTLY why people buy what they buy. If you know this, you can provide that product–and sales go up.

How much do you think you could have charged for such a product 15 years ago? Probably millions of dollars. Think about what a company like Johnson and Johnson could do with that kind of technology, or Proctor and Gamble. They pay millions of dollars each year for market research, and it only touches the tip of the iceberg into gaining this kind of true customer insight.

That product exists now… it’s called Social Media.

P.S. I received a suggestion that I needed more pictures in my blog entries…so I hope you like that one– 🙂

Social media fascinates me for so many reasons. When we think back to different revolutionary technologies–the assembly line, the cotton gin, the transcontinental railroad or the first telegraph across the Atlantic Ocean, the world changed forever. Entire industries were created. Fortunes were created that were only dreamed of before. Ford became a household name. Names like Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller became business titans. But think about those first few points. Entire INDUSTRIES were created. The business world changed FOREVER.

We are witnessing this in our own lifetime. We point our finger and mock the person who is completely addicted to facebook, but we’re ALL part of this revolution. We are changing our very habits of communication, buying products, interacting with brands, and conducting research. I’m about to leave T-Mobile for another cell provider. How did I conduct most of my research? Asked my friends on Facebook. Why? Because I trust them. I could have just compared the info found on Verizon Wireless and T-mobile’s websites, but anyone can create a great website. I can read testimonials online all day long, but I don’t know if the positive ones were written by a Verizon employee, and if the negative ones were written by someone from Cricket.

Never again will companies wonder what their customers are saying, because they can search the hundreds of millions of tweets being sent every day. They can set up highly interactive brand pages on Facebook, and conduct polls, contests, and ask for testimonials. And the best part about it? It is FREE.

Free.

This isn’t a $10,000 a month contract you sign with people, this is literally a service that takes about 3 minutes to get started.

So my first series of questions: Why are SO MANY professionals not doing everything they can to learn how to harness the power of Social Media? Why isn’t every business developing a strategy for how to implement Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare? Why doesn’t every company answer customer questions or frustrations right away, like Dish Network (@dish_answers) and  America First Credit Union (@AFCU) did for me this past week? Literally, within minutes, they had answered.

For @dish_answers, I had just complained that my recording I had scheduled was off by an hour–which made it useless.  They contacted me right away, apologized, and made some recommendations of how I could fix the problem. With @AFCU, I had just praised their customer account services, and mentioned we were looking into their business services. They thanked me for my business, and sent me a link for some of their business services. To tell you the truth, I was extremely impressed. Just like that, in a medium I feel comfortable using, they addressed my issue. No hold time, no automated voice telling me which options to push, just good customer service–through Twitter.

And just like that, I went from a satisfied customer, to a loyal customer.  Mind you, this was all in public, for tweets that all could see (more on my next post).

I find it incredibly odd that ALL businesses aren’t more deeply engaged in Social Media. Why the continued skepticism? Why the whole, “Ah… I just don’t get Twitter… it’s just not for OUR business.”  You realize almost ALL of your customers are on Facebook, right? They use it. They interact with countless brands. Except yours. You have access to their preferences, insight into buying decisions, and the chance to build your own brand image which will build customer loyalty like never before… DIVE IN!

Here are a few suggestions for getting started:

1. There are a LOT of very insightful articles on developing a Social Media strategy for businesses all over the internet. I really like Inc Magazine though–at simply inc.com. I’ve read some really good stuff there–particularly written for beginners.

2. Set up a Facebook, Google+, and Twitter account for your business. From day one, use it as an opportunity to INTERACT with your customers. Don’t use it as just a sales tool. use it as a chance for customers to see just how human, funny, and personable you truly are. Be genuine, though.

3. Get started! Tell your customers about your page, and set up notifications for whenever you receive tweets, or when someone posts on your company’s wall.

When my wife and I were first told to put up a Facebook page for our business, we wondered, “What would we ever write on there?” Our business has about 3,000 fans now, and I honestly wouldn’t know what we’d do without that opportunity to interact with our customers. We absolutely love it.  It’s become  a priceless part of our business.

What have been some of your experiences with interacting with companies or professionals through social media?

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6 Comments

  1. As usual, very well written.

    I absolutely agree with this article.

    When we went to BYU and studied Communication Marketing we were just dipping our toes in the interweb. The first email address I had was from BYU and that was just a few years ago. The change that is taking place right now is profound and powerful from a marketing sense. We are able to connect with brands and people in such a different way. It honestly blows me away that things learned 12 years ago in school are obsolete.

    After school I worked for an advertising agency and learned media buying. Basically, it’s all about reach and frequency. But back then it was hard to measure. Maybe, if you were lucky, you’d get a few people to buy products. Now we are able to track (thanks to google analytics and klout) our reach and frequency in a much more impactful way.

    Good food for thought.

    Reply
    • Craig

       /  November 25, 2011

      I agree. It’s insane how obsolete things are.

      I remember taking a “communications technology” class, and the internet was covered BRIEFLY–but that was the only time I heard about it in my entire advertising major.

      I remember asking a print advertising instructor why weren’t learning more about advertising online, and he basically answered “we don’t have enough information on whether it will be effective” and continued to teach us about print media.

      Another professor had us bring an article from a “legitimate newspaper” (WSJ, NYT–but not USA today or any local magazines) and discuss it with the class. The whole point was that we needed to develop the habit of being “well read.” (though now I have my doubts about that–I think it was just so HE could be well informed) But now, print is all but dead. Yet I read about 20 times more on news sites now than I ever did through the papers.

      But yes, we have the opportunity to create more brand loyalty than was ever possible. I’ve seen updated buying models that track customer behavior–and the entire research and buying cycle has been drastically changed in the past decade–upending consumer habits that have been set in stone for over 80 years of advertising history.

      I’m interested to hear what your thoughts are on my next portion of this piece–where I discuss the importance of actually engaging, rather than simply blasting an advertisement through social media.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Reply
  2. Loved the article. Social media is a big part of any business, as it should be. Glad to hear the AFCU was interacting with you but think of how much more loyal you would be if they actually tried a little harder.

    When you mentioned their business accounts maybe they could have asked you a few questions about what you need in an account, why you would be leaving and maybe talk to you a little more than just giving you a link. The effectively gave you a brochure when you were hinting there could have been more to your desires.

    They are getting there with their social media but need to step it up a little further to be a socially savvy business.

    Big thing that they and many other companies need to learn is to monitor social media better. Expensive tools like Radian 6 do not guarantee success in SM Monitoring. I have seen things online that were never seen by my competitors with these expensive software packages and I set up a monitoring station free of charge.

    Glad to see people are getting it though.

    Reply
    • Craig

       /  November 26, 2011

      Great points Matt, and thank you for commenting. I guess I was impressed they responded at all, but you are right, there is so much more they could have done to really get engaged.

      Reply
  3. AFCU did respond to the business accounts in a follow-up tweet. They provided a link to the member to find out more about the products and services they offer to businesses.

    Reply
  1. A few thoughts on Social Media–Part 2 « My thoughts exactly

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