In business, as in life, there is always the temptation to “keep up with the Joneses,” However, if you really want to stand out from the crowd, instead of copying the competition, sometimes it’s smarter to look at what they’re doing and devise ways of doing it better.
There are no shortages of companies using social media; however, not a lot of them are using it right. Many just treat it as another form of advertising when that’s really not the point of social networking (even for businesses). Its primary purpose is to connect with consumers, and here are three ways you can do that more effectively:
1. Respond to Your Customers
One of the best ways to connect with your customers is by responding to what they have to say.
Instead of using social sites as a stage to trumpet the greatness of your company, regard these sites as a place where you can really engage with your customers. If someone makes an interesting comment or asks a question, make sure to respond. Similarly, always say “thank you” when complimented, and if given a criticism, apologize and try to fix the problem.
The most important thing is to make your presence known. Subscribers begin to wonder “what’s the point?” if there seems to be no face behind the company and no one is responding to their postings. So, communicate regularly, be helpful, relevant, and genuinely interested, and you will get much more out of your social media efforts.
2. Be the Go-To Source
It’s tempting to keep all of your industry secrets to yourself, but that’s not the way to earn followers. People love being associated with those who regularly provide them with interesting news, tips, and inside information about products, people, and services. After all, social networking is about sharing – so, share the knowledge.
Always stay on the lookout for interesting tidbits you can offer you subscribers, and they will quickly begin to think of you as the go-to source for information in your industry. Once you become the “expert,” word will spread, and then there’s no telling how large your following can grow.
This doesn’t mean you have to come up with all of the ideas on your own; read what people are talking about on industry related blogs, pay attention to the news, and ask your customers what’s on their mind. These types of sources will provide you with a wealth of information. Gather all of the greatest stuff on the web and put it in your own words or provide a link back. Consumers will appreciate the “one-stop-shop” for information and will recognize the value in keeping a relationship with you.
3. Don’t Ignore Feedback
A lot of times businesses ask for feedback through customer surveys and the like, but never act on the advice (at least from the consumers’ perspective). Whether you request suggestions or get them uninvited, make a point to explain why you are or are not going to use the advice. This is just another way to show your customers you care and listen to what they have to say.
That said, don’t patronize your followers by giving them a lot of talk and never making any changes in your business. If you’re really listening to what they have to say, it is only natural you will change your practices from time to time (no business is perfect).
Your online community is a great venue for such a sounding board and an ideal place to discuss changes and improvements within your company. Don’t be afraid to publicly post a user’s feedback (good or bad) and explain what you did about it. Acknowledge or reward the most useful suggestions and you will receive many more constructive comments. By maintaining such a close association with your followers, you will have a clear advantage over businesses who can only guess what their customers are thinking.
When utilizing social media, perhaps the best advice is to think of yourself as a friend. Listen, respond, help, and do all the things that good friends do, and you will naturally build a group of loyal followers.