Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Opportunity of a Lifetime (and How You Missed It)

Everyone is rushing to have some kind of Social Media presence right now. Companies boast of Twitter feeds and Facebook fan pages to show how hip they are. What's missing from most of these is a clear strategy on how to engage the consumer. This stems from the fact that most businesses see Social Media as a tactic, not as a strategy.

A few weeks ago, I walked into a local print shop and asked about a banner stand displayed prominently in the store. How much was it, I asked.

Ten minutes later, I left the store with no answer. The guy behind the counter was incapable of finding the price on the computer, looking it up in a book or finding someone to ask.

I left the store thinking that he had just missed a chance to sell me a new banner and stand for whatever price the combo was. And had the new banner come back looking particularly handsome, I might go back - I like giving my business to small local shops. I can think of at least two other banners I'm going to need eventually. And I always need posters or flyers. If a year is pretty busy, I might have spent $1000 with them. Not hardly retiring to Florida money, but...how many potential $1000 clients walk in, then walk out his door because he didn't answer their questions?

On Twitter, I was talking about a particularly bad experience I had with an airline. I addressed their competitors who I knew were on Twitter. How will you win me over to become your customer? I asked. I never received any answer from either of them. Another lost opportunity. I'm planning on flying a number of times next year...they could have gotten my money as simply as replying, "We won't lose your reservation, that's for sure."

Online, when someone comments that they went onto your website and could not find what they were looking for, do you tell them that 85% of your customers do find what they are looking for or do you offer your assistance?

How do you handle a complaint? If you get an email that something arrived damaged, do you require a convoluted and tedious process, or do you see that as an opportunity to build brand loyalty send out a replacement right away?

Online or offline, Social Media means the very same thing - responding to people quickly, honestly, transparently.

Is your refund or rebate program simple, or does it resemble a sweepstakes entry with its complexity? Do you reply to customer service complaints with statistics on how improved your customer service is?

When someone clicks on your store, can you give them a price?

Do you reply at all when they address you on Social Media?

Social Media is not *where* you talk with people, it's the act of talking with people through any form of media. If you don't respond to people when they talk to you, it doesn't matter if you have a Twitter feed, or a Facebook page or a LinkedIn presence, you've just lost an opportunity of a lifetime.
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