This weekend I attended the Oakville Networking Un-Conference on Social Media and engaged in discussion on Social Media and Customer Service. In an attempt to communicate the benefits of Twitter and Facebook in a simple manner I positioned them as new customer service channel which, as Jay Baer & Amber Naslund note in their fabulous book “The Now Revolution“ have replaced the telephone as a communications channel!
These days when I am asked by a small business owner “When is a good time to get active with social media?” I reply – “If the phone rings in the office, when do you pick it up? First ring, second, third? Who picks it up? Your receptionist, your assistant or you? Imagine that the tool you choose to manage your Facebook and Twitter accounts with, be it Hoot Suite, Social Scope or Post ling is your new telephone. How will you respond to its data?” Naturally in order to connect with a potential client in the past you listened for the ring and answered it. With Twitter and Facebook you must both create the content and manage the response that arrives in the form of mentions and re-tweets, comments and posts. Like a new phone that has just been connected in your office – you will make your clients aware of your business phone number by some form of marketing be it a business card or print ad. When it does finally ring you will strive to respond in a manner that creates trust and credibility in order to move towards a point where you can offer up your service with the intention of making a sale. This occurs, of course, once you have determined there is a need for your offer. If no need is apparent you can continue to educate the potential client on your area of expertise with the hope that when the time is right you will be top of mind.
Below are two reasons why Social Media is here to stay and not just a “fad”. Both are essential to business success in today’s rapidly changing world. The Social Media “figures” of Facebook and Twitter that dominate your new customer service are framed against a ground based on
1. MEDIA – The platforms of Facebook and Twitter both reside in the cloud connected to the internet. This media is not new we have been utilizing for at least a decade, first with email, then with a website.
2. USER CENTRIC PHILOSOPHY – The internet has evolved to place where the user – customer, consumer, client is at the centre. This shift was driven by search engines – in particular Google. Now social media based on networks have arisen to allow your customer to build their own profile and connections and if they choose – they can include you in their network. If you win their trust and crediblity, if you engage with interesting content and insights that same user can easily share your posts, updates and SMS –(real time micro-blogging) to their networks..
These key factors allow for real time conversations powered by social media. When fully utilized this new division of your business can generate leads, engage customers, spearhead campaigns, provide market research and gather consumer insight – all through the simple acts of listening, engaging and conversing and is a must have for all wise leaders “looking to work on their business rather than in their business.” If you find you do not have time to manage these channels then it is smart to outsource it. Hire someone to do it -even on a part-time basis who is media savvey and knows how to sell. An hour a day is a great start and the long-term benefits will serve you well.
The history of advertising began in the late 1880’s with the basic assumption that the product for sale would give you what you need. For almost one hundred years that concept was delivered as a one way message through various media like print, radio and television. While big businesses used the services of large agencies most small businesses have relied on “word of mouth” to get the word out. It was not until 125 years later that marketing began to take on the role of helping businesses to grow by providing services that were accountable, interactive, integrated and targeted.
With the new media of computers, mobile phones and the internet connecting people and extending their reach – a new way to communicate has emerged. Over the last three years the rise of Social Media is radically changing the way in which business is conducted. Social Media brings with it a quantum shift in HOW we connect and share information with customers, suppliers and other businesses. Ironically this new form of media amplifies the power of “word of mouth” as people share electronically with their friends, family and business acquaintances (their social networks) information that is relevant to them.
The good news is that the era of very expensive one way mass marketing is no longer effective. It has been replaced by online marketing which is the most cost effective way to connect and creates the greatest return on investment. Investing in Social Media is a wise decision and highly recommended. The bad news is that social media is so new that many business owners are frightened by the change that it brings. Giving up the phone for a piece of software that manages tweets in hard to fathom. One of the first topics up for discussion at the UnConference was “Social Media is nothing to Fear”. Just as the phone and fax transformed the way business was conducted in the past social media is doing the same right now. As a business leader it is wise to position yourself ahead of the curve. Have no fear, for this time around it is the consumer who will benefit the most – keep in mind that people like you and I are also consumers who seek better access to information on products and services we buy. The more we participate in this experience the more we reconginze how this new type of customer service and its responsiveness is good for the consumer. It is no longer about the one way messaging of large corporations and the frustration of waiting in line for hours to return an item or on the phone to resolve an issue. With new tools in place consumers expect and demand real time resolutions from business. Below is an example of twitter being used by Best Buy as a customer service portal.
Your customers live in one of the most connected areas in the world. For most people in Canada the internet is the first place we turn to search for information on whatever it is that we need to buy or want to research. In addition consumers can now use their social networks for “shopping” referrals. Our social nature is such that we like to share our opinions and thoughts on various topics and services daily whether offline or on. Your customer has already figured out that they are in control of the conversations around what they buy, where they eat and where they can shop and know that they can easily share with others their reaction to each and every business transaction. Instead of fearing this real time interaction wise businesses should embrace the tools afforded by this new media and use them to their advantange by implemeting solid social interactions and real time relationship building.