Brandon Cheung | May 26, 2011
True or false? “Ideas spread faster when they’re free. Ideas that spread, win.”
You don’t have to answer that now. It’s just a nice quote I saw from Seth Godin (full video here) that got me thinking about our overall attitude towards social media’s impact on business. Why are we so relaxed about jumping into social media when the stakes are so critical? The rules around how things spread have changed, but the majority of businesses have struggled to adapt. Look no further than a paid subscription newspaper to understand the impact.
I work with a lot of clients that ask the same question, “What is the value of social media for my business?”
“Is it a place for me to launch ad campaigns with reduced media expenditure?”
“Is it a hotbed for customer insights?”
“Is it a channel for generating leads? And providing after-sales support?”
“Is it a place to drive loyalty of existing customers?”
These are all good reasons to consider starting a social media program for your business. But still, the most important reason to be involved in social media often gets ignored. Freshly inspired by the book, The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk, I’d like to share with you an important lesson to help you prepare your business for social media.
We are in the business of caring, not selling.
Storefront of the Future
The business of caring isn’t just about performing customer service on Twitter and Facebook. This is about having everyone on the front-line of your business living and breathing the soul of your brand. A lot of organisations refuse to believe it, but social media will become their most important digital touch point to the next generation of customers. Imagine a world where a customer learns about your brand, considers purchase of your products, and makes a direct sales transaction all within various social media channels. They’ll stay connected with you for future updates and if you play your cards right, you’ll have a long and prosperous relationship. Is that so hard to imagine? Isn’t this already happening today?
Now imagine social media as your largest, most scalable storefront. Bigger and more valuable than any brick and mortar retail location you own. Think of how differently you’d structure your service. Would you want to employ staff members that don’t exude the caring soul of your brand? Would you like it if your door greeters and cashiers had robotic personalities?
The consequences of bad service are also much higher in this socialised store. When a customer makes a complaint in your store, a lot more people hear about it. Hoards of people will walk out of your store and never come back if you don’t have a plan to address complaints, or better yet, a plan to proactively avoid them. When a loyal customer recommends your product to someone else browsing your store, imagine how much it would mean to him if you simply said ”thank you for your support.” Whether you’re a restaurant or a fashion designer, it goes a long way to have an attentive service staff that’s listening but not pushy. No one wants to walk into a store only to be bombarded with sales promotions and an encore of your latest ad campaign.
Big Scalable Hearts
OK, you get it. Social media will eventually deliver service throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Now how do we begin to change our ways to embrace this new social storefront?
Perhaps we need to expand our thinking around how we measure our performance in social media. Right now we only seem to focus on the value we get from our customers:
How many fans or followers do we have?
How many free impressions do I get?
How many likes, comments, or shares do I get?
How many recommendations do I receive?
While these are important metrics, let’s also evaluate the metrics that show what we give back to our customers:
How often do you respond to questions, comments, or complaints?
How successful are you in resolving these issues in social media?
How often do you praise people for doing good things on behalf of your brand?
How often do you perform random acts of goodness to loyal customers?
It’s natural for businesses to only think about the bottom line and revenue-driving initiatives. Yet it seems unnatural to ignore the chance to truly show how much you care about your customers in your biggest ‘storefront’ environment. How long can you afford to ignore them before your competitors start to win them over?
Think of how you’d treat your customers face-to-face in a small store environment and then multiply that by the thousands (or sometimes millions). That’s the opportunity of amplified soul in social media.
Seth Godin’s statement is true. Try giving away something for free. It doesn’t have to be something with a big price tag. Just a little bit of your good soul will do. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you get in return.