20 Feb 2012

Why social media suddenly matters

Every client rolls their eyes when I press the need for actively engaging in social media.

I have a Facebook page!” they always respond. “I post once a week. It hasn’t done anything for my business so why should I do more?

Unfortunately, that response misses the point. Everything has changed in marketing because of social media. Everything.

Social media = Referrals

According to a recent survey, Facebook is the largest referral source for all sales, closely followed by Yelp and other sites. If you’re not being talked about on these sites, then you’re losing business. Even worse, you may be receiving negative reviews and not even know it. Without monitoring your social mentions or engaging in conversation with your customers, you don’t have a chance of knowing.

I recently saw a car dealership receive a negative review at the top of its own Facebook page. The opening sentence started “Don’t buy from …!” It had been posted two months before I arrived to catch it, and no one had responded. I wondered how many thousands of people had checked out the page and decided never to do business with that company.

How should the dealership have responded? By simply posting a response comment:

“We are so sorry you have had this problem. We weren’t aware of it, but it’s important to us that we fix the problem. Please call me at … And I’ll personally make sure this is fixed.”

By responding with an attempt to solve the customer’s problem, the dealership could have looked like a customer service hero instead of a dirtbag.

The bottom line is that your customers talk about you whether you want it or know it. You can ignore it, or you can take control of that conversation.

Social media = Brand awareness

The CEO of Proctor & Gamble just laid off a huge portion of his marketing staff when he learned that they could advertise for free on Facebook. Indeed, all the Fortune 500s and cutting-edge companies that rely heavily on marketing are abandoning television and radio and pouring their massive ad budgets into social media. Direct mail is considered antique and even email campaigns are increasingly ineffective and abandoned. Why bother when only 20 percent of emails are ever opened?

Social media sites allow you to micro-target audiences without ever having to buy an email list. You can intensively target your ad campaign so that only members of certain groups or certain locations (down to the zip code) view your ads. Best of all, you only pay when someone clicks through to the ad. Millions of people can see your ad with no click-throughs, and that builds your brand awareness with almost no cost.

Two-way conversation
What businesses don’t understand is that social media has changed society so that your customers now expect to have a two-way conversation with you. People get irritated when a business spends five minutes posting content but ignores comments and doesn’t engage the community beyond that. It’s rude.

Instead of viewing Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as another daily chore, try to think of like a giant cocktail party. You are talking one-to-one with a potential customer, but thousands of people are standing over your shoulder listening in on the conversation. At a cocktail party, you wouldn’t simply make statements and then ignore the comments of your counterpart. If you did, everyone at the party would ignore you. Instead, if you discuss your business politely and acknowledge the comments of your counterpart, you not only win him over but also earn the business of thousands of other people who were watching.

Perhaps that explains why making posts once a week and then ignoring your Facebook page isn’t attracting customers. By engaging them in conversation, you’ll generate a serious sales return on a small marketing investment.

Original article: HartfordBusiness