What the heck is social media, anyways?
inPresence LLP manages social media accounts for several small businesses in the Chicago suburbs. What does it mean to have a social media presence? What’s the difference between these sites? Why do we even care what people write online about our business?
inPresence partner and social media fiend Ross Wasserstrom throws in his two cents on what these platforms are made to do, and how they differ from each other.
Let’s start with the following scenario:
You started a business, Oak Park Widgets Inc.
Your business, Oak Park Widgets, makes widgets and sells them in Oak Park.
Oak Park Widgets has a website (www.oakparkwidgets.com), which is great because people from all over the world can buy your widgets and have them shipped to their houses for personal or business use.
Your business website has a “contact us” page with email links and a toll-free phone number, which your business uses to respond to all questions and comments regarding widgets, widget sales, widget sizes, and all things “widget” ASAP.
Your customers have a place to buy your product (online and in-store), a place to find information, and methods to communicate with the business that makes the best widget in the world. What can social media provide that your customers aren’t already getting?
Each social media platform has strengths and weaknesses. Let’s look at some examples of how your widget company can benefit from the top companies:
Oak Park Widgets can use Facebook to connect widget lovers around the world and start a conversation about why each person loves widgets, and what they’d like to see in a new widget. What should Widget 2.0 have that Widget 1.0 didn’t? Do you like your Widget’s color, or do we need more options? Or less options? www.facebook.com/oakparkwidgets is the place to talk about widgets with your friends and peers.
Oak Park Widgets Inc. can also guide the conversation about widgets by posting photos, videos, and questions to its customers on the Facebook page, and even provide answers to frequently asked questions about widgets. If Oak Park Widgets has a sale, a post on the Facebook page will let everyone know right away.
Your customers will use Twitter to talk about their widgets right now.
“Here’s a picture of our #widget on the beach”
“Anyone have a #widget I can borrow in #ForestPark today?”
“Just heard all about #widget on @WBEZ #AfternoonShift…going to buy one on sale”
— Wednesday Journal (@OakPark) August 3, 2013
Will you be attending Lollapalooza this year? Why or why not? If so, what are you looking forward to? #AfternoonShift
— WBEZ (@WBEZ) July 31, 2013
All of these Tweets are related by “#widget”, so Twitter users who follow #widget stay in touch with the previously-unseen world of widgets around them.
Oak Park Widgets can Tweet photos of widgets being made, sold, or funny moments in the widget office. Twitter also allows Oak Park Widgets to respond to questions about widgets instantly and publicly, one of the most important parts of customer service in 2013. Consider this example Tweet:
@JoeSmith: “my #widget just arrived in the mail broken, #fail @OakParkWidgets please help”
@OakParkWidgets: “@JoeSmith we just emailed you a shipping label to return your broken #widget. We’ll express ship a new one”
Now everyone interested in widgets (by following #widget) sees that Oak Park Widgets is serious about customer service. Even if they bought a widget from your arch-rival, Chicago WidgetCorp, industry customers are exposed to an alternative source of widgets.
Customers can use Yelp to review Oak Park Widgets, and Oak Park Widgets can respond to those reviews. Let’s say a customer had a great experience in your store; she bought the perfect widget in the right color, and the sales rep gave her 10% off. She can go home and write all about the experience, give Oak Park Widgets five stars, and anyone looking for widgets on Yelp will see how great your store is.
On the opposite side, a customer who has a bad experience (it happens…) can write down exactly what happened in detail, which gives you a chance to respond. A grumpy sales rep or untidy sales floor can quickly turn a great buying experience into a stressful or negative situation. Yelp allows your customers the chance to tell you how much they enjoyed working with you.
Fact: Oak Park Widgets makes the best widgets on this side of the Mississippi. How do you do it? By hiring the best, most skilled widget makers from the best widget schools in America. You can use LinkedIn to post openings with Oak Park Widgets and get connected to those talented widget makers. If you need a top widget pro in your shop, post the opening on LinkedIn and quickly browse applicants’ experience and education. No more wasting time looking through hundreds of paper résumés; find the top people instantly on LinkedIn.
I hope this quick guide has alleviated some of your fears about using social media. Anyone with a good attitude and persistence can create and maintain an amazing social media presence, and earn their business new customers in the process. You might even have some fun! It’s an investment in your business’ reputation; make sure you have a plan and some goals before you dive in. You can do it!