There is a reason that rebelling against corporations is called going up against “the man”. It’s because to the average consumer, shopper and citizen see businesses – save for Aunt Jemima and the Green Giant canned veggies – as nameless, faceless, soulless enterprises.
The practice of buying, selling, consulting and trading used to be a personal experience where customers knew the names of all the people they bought from and trusted with their most important confidential information.
Today this is not the case and businesses need to place the utmost energy and focus into cultivating a humanized brand that thinks like a company but interacts like a friend.
It’s a bit of a cliché but if your company isn’t plugged into any social networks it has a lot of catching up to do. Facebook, websites and Twitter have created a culture of gathering and analyzing intel. People expect information to be available to them anytime, anywhere and they expect it to be in its most current and up-to-date form. Facebook and Twitter are the gateways into the global – yes, global – consumer marketplace. Connecting with potential customers at a grassroots level in a cool or trendy way and doing it in 140 characters or less (in the case of Twitter) is an invaluable boon to a company’s bottom line.
Maintaining an active Facebook and Twitter feed requires only a few tech savvy people or one online chat-oholic. Keep it current, keep it fresh and always mention the newest information and explain with a few catchy sentences about why it is important for the customer to pay attention and look into it more.
Hint: Most people now access their preferred social media sites from their smartphones so your messages can’t be pages long because they won’t scroll more than once or twice.
Questions and Answers
With great social networking comes great responsibility. Your consumers have questions and the same way that Facebook or Twitter is your gateway to them; it is their direct line to your company. Don’t give the impression of being accessible and then not take advantage of the opportunity. Invite their questions and take the time to answer each one carefully. This is the aspect of social media that takes up the most amount of time so try to develop a system where you are able to answer questions in a timely fashion. The same policy applies to emails and website inquiries. Within two business days is the standard deadline and some companies even offer a special phone number to call if the question is not answered in the specified amount of time. This is a nice touch for the customer and leaves them feeling as though your company cares about the follow-up.
The Feedback Loop
Customers have as many comments as they do questions. Set up a forum where they can voice their concerns or praises and you can respond to them in a professional manner. Let customers know that you welcome the dialogue and that their feedback is one of the integral ways your company can make fast improvements that speak directly to the people’s needs.
Managing these types of discussions can be tricky. You obviously don’t want to be going on the defensive and refuting their concerns, but at the same time sometimes their criticisms are unfounded. Some companies find that getting a well-informed third party site manager to oversee the discussion works most effectively while others have used informed customers as proctor, participant, and expert.
Breaking into the social networking sphere brings a voice to your company and next comes the face. Each business crafts their image differently. Having a ‘corporate face’ doesn’t necessarily mean having a baby cheetah, kindly mother figure or sassy reptile sitting alongside the logo. Sometimes it can mean a photo and mini bio of each employee (if the company is small), sometimes it is a photo and bio of the key figures, and sometimes it is simply a PR face that is approachable, friendly, and the people will recognize as ‘branded’. Whatever way you choose make sure the voice and tone of the company matches the face for a smooth image that is memorable and genuine.
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