12 Apr 2012

What a Cab Driver Can Teach You About Social Media

Rashid Temuri is famous in Chicago and beyond for using social media to build his business. What’s unusual is that Temuri is a cab driver, not an occupation most of us associate with innovative uses of technology. 

But this cabbie has figured out how to turn a commoditized business into a relational one with social media.

Rashid’s pitch is simple: a comfortable ride, a clean cab, easy payment, total customer satisfaction — and the choice of “good healthy conversation or comfortable silence to your destination.”

Temuri has a presence on many networks, but he really shines on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @ChicagoCabbie. There he chats with new friends he’s made in his car, posts Instagram photos of the city, and checks into different locations around the Windy City.

Temuri grows his network the old-fashioned way: by making friends. “Do not follow 2001 people to get more followers,” he told me. “It just shows desperation and it’s a turn-off.”

Here’s a typical conversation from earlier today.

Temuri’s social presence helps him get both new and repeat business. Driving across town, perhaps late at night, with a total stranger is a little creepy, isn’t it? But even someone who hasn’t yet met Temuri in real life knows more about him from his online presence than about the random driver they’d get if they called a dispatcher.

My personal service gives me [an] advantage,he told Ars Technica in January. “When you call me, you know who I am and who will be showing up at your door.

Temuri also uses technology to build relationships with existing customers. He offers:
  • Free WiFi for iPhone and iPad users
  • Google Latitude tracking to see how far away he is
  • Text alerts 15 to 30 minutes before his cab arrives
  • iCal invitations when you schedule a call (source)
Customers are welcome to call him, text him, or tweet him to arrange a pickup — he adapts himself to whatever is most convenient to them.

All throughout his business, Temuri is hard at work thinking of ways to make his customer’s lives less painful and more enjoyable, and they’re rewarding him by becoming loyal customers and advocates.

Why can’t your business do the same? Here are 5 takeaways to consider:
  • In a commoditized business, relationships can make all the difference.
  • Use social to unearth customers’ common pain points and eliminate them.
  • Use social to find and reach out to customers who are ready to buy (in Temuri’s case, people who’ve “checked-in” at the airport)
  • Try different ways to delight your customers and see which ones generate the most buzz
  • After someone becomes a customer, keep in touch on social so they turn to you next time