The Bend Chamber recently had a program on social media where I had the opportunity to present on the topic along with Matt Hand of Pinnacle Media and Kelly Walker of Incyte Marketing. It was a great meeting with lots of good questions, so I thought I would write a follow-up. This also builds on the previous CBN article Social Media 101. (Email me if you want a copy).
Previously, we talked about asking your customers about their preferences for social media, and I still hang my hat on that idea. But you should also be looking at what your competition is doing. Look at your competitor’s Web pages and see if they have links to Facebook or Twitter. Check to see if they use YouTube videos to enhance their Web page and their selling message. Conduct a web search and see if they are in Facebook. Remember that Facebook is more of a B2C media and Twitter is used more frequently in B2B markets (except by Charlie Sheen!)
Twitter has a great search feature found at http://search.twitter.com/. This is a great way to see who is talking about you, your competitors or your industry. It also is a great way to get information on what was a key topic at the discussion….ROI on social media. You will find some great links on this subject on Twitter if you just use their search tool for social media ROI. This is one of the big topics this year. Many companies have spent money over the last few years converting traditional advertising dollars to social, and now the bill is coming due. They want to start to be able to see proven results from their efforts. We will start to see more research and case studies in this area. So use this search periodically to stay abreast of some of those findings.
There is also another ROI: return on ignoring. While you may not find your industry is very active in social media at this time, this could be a game-changing media. A recent report stated that there appears to be a trend by small businesses to use Facebook in place of traditional Web pages. Businesses are actually starting to conduct e-commerce in Facebook. Web pages are often static and not frequently updated. This is in part to the technology which may be difficult for some to master. Facebook is easy enough for any business owner to manage on their own. We will have to wait and see if this trend gets traction over the coming year. The point is just because you don’t see much social media in your area does not mean the game won’t change during the coming year. You should regularly view the social landscape to keep track of changes in your area.
While continuing the ROI (return on ignoring) discussion, you should look to see how Facebook is being used. While many customers “Like” your business, the true benefit comes from strengthening your relationships, and thus loyalty, through conversations with your customers. When I view Facebook pages of small businesses for my classes at COCC, I notice the ones making the best use of Facebook are asking their customers thought-provoking questions. An outdoor trip company asked, “What would be your favorite trip?” and got some great ideas from customers. They got an opportunity to explain why one particular trip wasn’t possible due to environmental regulations. They also were able to let a customer know that they had a similar multi-day trip to what the customer was wanting. This type of contact can lead to a possible sale.
Much of what I see in Facebook is just casual and often positive conversation back and forth. This usually happens initially when the business is not yet quite sure how to enter into the conversation or what to post. Remember, social is more about listening and less about selling. So keep thinking about questions you might ask your customers if you were chatting face-to-face. This just happens to be an electronic conversation. The one thing that will be difficult to track is the benefit you get from not ignoring the customer’s comments. In today’s stressed out world—a world where a new generation texts friends all day long, many customers feel good just being able to communicate with companies about things they see or like. They appreciate the attention when their comment gets recognized by the business. This is one way true loyalty gets formed. The social media allows for the placing of a personal face on the business. It becomes part of the foundation for developing word-of-mouth success.
If a business sets clear goals and measurement about what it wants to accomplish with social media, it can be successful. Some will have to decide if this just a different way to spend advertising dollars, and thus they will want a specific amount of sales in return. Others will view it as a way to get to better know their customers. This goal becomes more difficult to measure, just as it is difficult to measure word-of-mouth advertising, but likewise just as important to have in today’s challenging economy.
Jim Kress helps businesses with marketing and customer service issues. He can be reached through the Business Department at Central Oregon Community College at 541-383-7712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.