Lisbiz strategies: Is social media just noise?

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June 9/16, 2014; Volume 27/Number 29

By Lisbeth Calandrino

As an outsider looking in, social media is a lot of people talking about themselves. If you’re not engaging, you might be tempted to feel like the rest of the world is moving forward while you’re standing still.

Social media is about finding ways to connect to a target customer. As salespeople, we have spent most of our lives trying to figure out how to sell the customer rather than finding ways to connect with her. We were considered the authority and felt we were worth listening to. Now we find ourselves on the other side of the conversation. The customer is doing all the talking, and we know we need to be listening. Sometimes it’s really hard to change sides. It’s like finding out that the student knows more than the teacher.

You need a business strategy for your social media. Some of us are always talking about our pets and then there are those who are posting serious questions. My idea is to keep customers close, respect their lives and engage. Although I don’t know all of my 4,800 friends, I know that the more I post and engage, the more I feel as if they are part of my life. I am always surprised when I meet one of them, and we laugh about something we’ve shared on Facebook.

I am working with a company that has an impressive 23,000 likes on its Facebook page. The company explained how it collected these “fans” through Facebook’s marketing. I asked if they had the email addresses from these people, and they said they didn’t. OK, so what’s the point? It’s no longer about “likes” and “following”; it’s about serious metrics, and businesses are taking it seriously.

The problem is there is so much data to collect that it’s overwhelming. The thing to remember is word-of-mouth marketing is a currency that will affect your bottom line. If you were to look at how many customers are driven to your business by social media, you could measure profits per customer. Watching your social media pages and posting regularly will allow you to connect and measure the outcome. Posting photos, asking questions and collecting comments will result in purchasing opportunities. However, like anything else, if you want your business to grow, you will have to spend time nurturing it.

Social media allows you to build presence and grow your brand with very little investment. No longer do you have to spend oodles of money to make this happen. However, it does mean you need a strategy. A few years ago having social media pages seemed to be the goal; smart companies found out that pages alone would bring in customers. It’s like what happened with websites. Everyone scrambled to get a website, the bigger the better, but left them to disintegrate from lack of attention.

Improving your insight into how social media works and what you can do to drive customers should be the focus of any business. Meeting and engaging with people is no different if you do it online or offline. If you really want to see a difference, you should be combining the two: create an online experience and carry it over into an event in your store so you can reconnect with your customer.

Statistics tell us that 64% of customers leave a business because of indifference. It doesn’t mean the store didn’t provide product and service; it just stopped there. The experience became forgettable and the customer was left without a “feeling.” Meeting the customer’s expectations isn’t enough. Customers want to know you care and want to know you will be there when they need you.

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