Listen & Learn: What Are Your Customers Saying About You?
Social media offers businesses a chance to eavesdrop on what customers think of their products and services. Unfortunately, many small businesses continue to miss this valuable opportunity.
Sherlock Holmes famously chastised Doctor Watson because he saw but did not observe. When it comes to social media, many a business listens but does not hear, or hears but does not respond.
InSite Consulting surveyed 1,222 managers and business owners from the U.S. and Europe on the importance of social media. The company discovered that while 80 percent of U.S. companies have a social media presence, only 61 percent actually listen to business-related social media chatter. A mere 54 percent take the next logical step and engage in social media conversations.
The numbers show a disconnect between business attitudes and the growing importance of social media. It's estimated a single negative tweet or Facebook post can cost a business 30 customers. Knowing who's talking about you online and what theyre saying can save your business from significant losses.
Eavesdropping on Social Media
What should you search for on social media? Start by looking for any reference to your business name, products and services. Include nicknames, abbreviations and misspellings in your search.
Seasonal campaigns, sales and special offers also crop up in social media. You may also wish to search the names of business owners, CEOs and stockholders.
After you get a feel for how your own business appears on social media, run similar searches for your competitors. If your online reputation is worse than competitors, try to determine what other companies do well. Similarly, if you have a good online rep and your competitors are struggling, find out what theyre doing wrong so you dont make the same mistakes.
Tracking Social Media
You could run social media searches manually, but daily searches take time. Instead, use one of the many free or low-cost social media trackers available online.
Apps such as Hootsuite and Social Mention, coupled with free services such as Google Alerts, make social media monitoring more manageable. Many of these apps also allow users to reply to comments and schedule posting times.
Customer Service and Social Media
Listening to social media chatter is only the beginning. To leverage social media effectively you need to talk with your customers.
If someone posts kudos for your products, thank the person for their kind words (and maybe offer them a one-time discount). If someone makes a negative comment, ask what your company can do to resolve the problem. Even if the customer remains unsatisfied, you're making it clear you take customer service seriously.
Get involved with message boards, forums and other sites where your business name (or those of your competitors) crops up. Becoming an active participant in such conversations increases your brand awareness and reputation.
Maintaining a Social Media Presence
InSite estimated that 80 percent of U.S. companies have a social media presence, but found that many businesses treat social media pages like static Web pages.
A social media page requires frequent attention. Add photos of new products, offer special discounts to social media users and link to your business's Web site.
But don't just post. You want to engage too. Ask your social media followers what they'd like to see in new services. Take informal polls on customer satisfaction or run social media-specific contests. The more comments you generate, the better your online reputation will be. Just make sure you're reading what people post and responding to the good and the bad comments.