If you think social media isn’t important, you’re wrong. Take a look at the scandal surrounding former Rep. Weiner and you’ll see the impact social media can have. Take a look at Lady Gaga, and you’ve got a picture perfect example of your Twitter feed’s potential power.
Regardless of whether or not you believe Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn can respectively sustain their current level of success, everyone around you is using social media. So, why aren’t you using it to gain a competitive edge against big businesses? Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are great resources because they’re inexpensive (read: free), user-friendly, fun and fast.
Social media is inexpensive. For the small business owner, any free marketing tool should be cause enough for celebration. Small businesses are having trouble enough securing loans to open up their doors let alone finding extra funds to devote to marketing initiatives.
You shouldn’t be surprised that social media platforms are user-friendly; your customers are (probably) using it. If you’re afraid of technology or unfamiliar with how any of the popular social media platforms operate, don’t be. It will not take you more than a few days, at most, to navigate the social media waters. You can always ask a coworker or employee to help you if you need it—which I doubt you will.
Social media can be an effective way to connect with customers, when used correctly. Don’t ever forget that social media is about conversing and engaging with your audience. Once you start pushing your product or service they’ll shut you out.
If a customer likes something you do or make ask them to tweet about it or write on your Facebook wall. Respond to them, thank them the same way you would if they said these things in person. Also, for your fans on Facebook, let them know about upcoming events, specials or sales before others.
Conversely, if your customer is unhappy, social media can also be an effective way to begin to handle the situation. Responding to a tweet or Facebook message is easier for the customer and for you—it’s fast.
Say, for example, you’re a pizza restaurant that delivers. A customer tweets, “Was looking forward to my Hawaiian pizza from @LovinInTheOven but got pepperoni instead. #disappointed” and includes a picture of the pepperoni pie. Even if you catch the mistake the next day (and presumably the customer eats the pizza anyway) tweet the customer an apology and offer to make it right. For a small business, this is a great way to show you care. Bonus points if you can secure a photo and/or a tweet of the customer eating a slice of Hawaiian.
What if you find yourself in a United Airlines-style situation? Well, presumably as a small business your customer’s dissatisfaction won’t get to that level. Due to your size, you’re closer to your customers and don’t have as many bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Just in case you accidentally do break a customer’s guitar and give them the runaround in fixing the issue, here’s how I would assuage the sticky situation after he’s posted a YouTube video:
- Apologize first in an official capacity (standard operating procedure).
- Say you’re sorry in a creative way. Perhaps you can post a YouTube video as a response. Picture United personnel singing the tune of “Why Can’t We Be Friends” featuring a new Taylor guitar identical to the one you ruined that somehow finds its way being delivered to the unhappy customer.
Aside from apologizing to customers and getting positive feedback for your business, social media is also a fun way to share your business’ culture. Do you always host a tacky Christmas sweater party? Share these embarrassing photos with your customers. Your customers are people first and foremost and social media is one way to maintain a fun, light-hearted connection with them outside of your business’ four walls. Did you find a funny video you that brightened your day? Share! Chances are if something made you smile it will do the same for them—they’ll like you for it.
Take a look at our social media platforms for inspiration