It’s easy to see that the rise of social media has changed the way we communicate with those around us. It seems like we spend more time sending messages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn than we do actually talking to those in our network. But although social media gets a bad rap for de-personalizing our connection to others, there are some business benefits to this new form of communication.
Social media allows…
When customers post on your company’s social media channels, they expect an immediate response. The days of waiting on hold to talk to someone on the phone, or writing and mailing a letter to a business are long over. For some business owners, this is pretty scary. If they are angry or irritated, customers can post in the heat of the moment. But it’s also a great opportunity. If someone is upset with your company, you know immediately. Which means you can react immediately. And if you address the problem in a timely manner, there’s a good chance you can get the comments removed – or at least edited to reflect that you took action.
A few years ago, someone may have had a disappointing experience with your company, and you may never have known. Now, social media gives customers an outlet to express their disappointment, and gives you an avenue to fix the situation.
Who’s your dream client? Is there a person or another company that your company would be excited to land as a customer? In the days before social media, you had limited options for reaching out to that person or company. You could write a letter or an email, which may or may not get a response. You could call the company, but then you have to get through the gauntlet of receptionists and assistants – and you’ll probably end up in voicemail. You could visit the company, but chances are, you won’t get past the lobby. Today, if you wanted to connect with a certain company, how could you do it? How about sending the CEO a connection request on LinkedIn or tweeting to him? Or writing a post on the company’s Facebook fan page? Social media has given us access to businesses and the people who run them that we have never had before.
What makes a referral so good for business? The fact that your customer has been personally recommended to you by someone you both know. Relationships hold a lot of power in business. But you don’t have to wait for an introduction to know how you and your prospects are connected. Just look on social media. Chances are, you know someone in common. Wouldn’t it be easier to ask that person to introduce you than to make a cold call? How much warmer is that first meeting when you can chat about someone you both know? And, if you’re connected with Jim, and I’m connected with Jim, and I think Jim’s a good guy – well, chances are, you’re OK, too! That’s social proof, and it’s good for business.
With all the information out there on the internet, there’s really no reason to go into any sales call or networking meeting blind. Need to connect with a certain prospect? Google them. Check out their social media accounts. You can go into that meeting with some knowledge of the prospect’s hobbies, interests, family, professional background – and just about anything else you want to know. You know your customers are doing research about your company, now you can turn the tables and learn about them, too!
Social media provides a new level of transparency in the business world. Perhaps our interactions are less personal, but in many ways they are more authentic. The days of separating your ‘work self’ from your ‘real self’ are over, so maybe it’s time we let down our guard and embraced it.
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