I received a phone call from a sweet older man a few weeks ago. He called because he was upset about Twitter and wanted to talk about it. I made myself a cup of hot chocolate, plopped on the couch and told him to let me have it. And he did. For almost an hour I got to listen as he vented that Twitter made it hard for him to follow conversations (I tried to offer assistance here but he was really mad), that he wanted more than 140 characters to express himself (I didn’t have an answer for this one), and how he thought social media was completely useless for small businesses. No one on the Web is talking about them, he said. Customers are talking about big brands; no one cares about the florist located on the corner of Main Street!
Ah, I love my job.
I chatted with him for a while and tried to drive home the point that people ARE talking about your business, regardless of how big or small. Customers are taking to the streets of Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, and beyond to let people know how much they love or dislike you. Those conversations are out there and it often doesn’t take much more than a search for yourself or a competitor to see how you can take advantage to grow leads, better customer service and build your business. He then asked me a question that made me shut up for a second. I took it as a sign that maybe I was getting through to him.
He asked me if I preferred to do business with small businesses using social media over non-social companies. And if so, why?
The answer, quite obviously, is that I do. For a couple of reasons.
I’m treated better
Companies that are in social media understand the power of influencers. They understand that customers are not equal and that it’s in their best interest to factor that influence into how they deal with them. Jeremiah Owyang touched on this earlier in the week asking if companies should factor in social influence into total customer value and I think the answer to that question, is “hells yes”. Better yet, I think companies are starting to realize that this is something they’re going to need to do. How companies will be able to build resources to identify influencers and break them out from the pack remains to be seen, but it needs to be done. Perhaps being able to match receipts with faces ala services like FourSquare will help. Or maybe companies will dedicated resources to building a new Social Media Rolodex. However they decide to handle it, systems must be created to identify influencers and handle their needs accordingly. When Heather Armstrong goes on a rampage about your brand, someone has to act fast.
I trust you more
I’m more inclined to trust you if I see you participating in social media, especially if you’re a small business. Not being vocal in social media today is like not having a Web site a few years ago. It creates an odd lack of presence that makes me wonder where exactly you are and where you think your customers are. If you’re not reaching out to customers through online platforms, it’s a sign that maybe you just don’t care. When you hang out in social media channels, it’s an immediate trust factor because I know that if I have a problem, there’s an easy way to let you know and get a resolution. I can contact you through Twitter. I can write on your Facebook wall. And as mentioned above, I also trust that a socially-savvy company knows how important I am and is more likely to take my social influence into account when dealing with me. Egoistical? Perhaps. Welcome to the Internet.
[Of course, I also know that if you’re in social media and you DON’T pay attention to my cry for help I have a much bigger mallet to beat you with. Just something to keep in mind.]
I hear things straight from you
When you’re in social media, it means we have a direct line from one another. I get to talk to you, but you also get to talk directly to me and be your own official news source. I don’t have to question whether the rumors are true or spend time hunting down information on the Web. I can just go to your Twitter account or blog for the real deal. Are you closing down your store for renovations? Is open mic night still on for tomorrow? Does that new menu take effect this week or next? It takes all the guesswork out of our interaction and I have an official source that I can trust for up-to-date information about your brand. That’s priceless.
I become part of your story
I like being treated like a human instead a nameless person who just walked into your store. I like creating connections with people. And social media enables me to do that. Through platforms like Twitter, Facebook and online reviews, I get a sense of who you are and your core values. I learn your story and can mentally entwine myself into it. And in doing that, I’m able to reach out to you and become more than just an IP address in your system. You learn my name, we have real conversations and I get to know you on a personal level. Why is this so important for small business owners? Because you can measure charisma in dollars. You don’t have to look much further than some of today’s social media rockstars to see that. Personality will open doors talent alone never could.
I get to feel hip
Fine! Yes, it’s about me! Social media breeds visibility and visibility breeds social proof. The more you’re out there talking to people and creating relationships, the more likely I am to trust you and view you as an authority in your field. And then I want to do business with you because, as a shallow human being, it makes me feel cool to attach myself to businesses that are doing cool things.
Those are some of the reasons why I like to do business with companies actively engaging in social media. Business has always been about building trust and relationships. Social media has simply allowed us to do that on a much grander scale than ever before. It makes sense to seek out those that ‘get it’. Whether we realize it or not they instructively become ‘our favorites’ and the ones we go back to time and time again.