Today’s guest blogger is Tanveer Naseer. You can read about him at the bottom of this post. If you haven’t read his blog yet, you should go read it and subscribe to it by clicking here. Enjoy!
The start of a new year often fosters discussions over what will be the key events to occur over the next 12 months. So far, many pundits are pointing out how 2011 will be the year of mass adoption by businesses of social media platforms as part of their marketing, management, and employee retention efforts. Given the fact that Facebook has surpassed Google as the most visited site on the internet in 2010, as well as the deepening integration of social media platforms into people’s everyday lives, there’s no question that businesses will have to adapt and incorporate social media into their various processes.
Granted, there are many businesses which are already fairly active on the various social media sites. Of course, while some of them have been shining examples of how businesses should use social media, most are still struggling in large part because they haven’t quite understood how they should be using social media to benefit their organization.
So why are some companies able to join in the social media scene and within a short period, reap the benefits while others were better off before they made the jump into these online social spheres? To help answer this question, I’d like to first start off by sharing this example of an interaction between a small business owner and a customer from the ‘real world.’
A friend of mine recently had some problems with his car and so he took it to his local garage to have it checked out. After running a series of tests on his car, the mechanic told my friend what was behind the problem his car was having and what the he could do to fix it. But then this mechanic did something completely unexpected – after explaining how he could fix the problem, he then advised my friend that his solution would only be a temporary fix and that he would be better off going to another garage that specializes in this kind of repair work.
Yes, you heard right – here was a small business owner who was basically telling a paying customer that while his service would fix his problem, he would be better off going to his competition to get his car repaired.
So, in addition to being a great example of true customer service, what can this story teach other business owners/leaders about how to approach using social media for their business? Here are three key takeaways:
1. Provide real value to your followers
In the case of this mechanic, he could have simply told my friend what he could do to repair his car with the advisory that this might only be a temporary solution and leave it up to my friend to decide whether to do the repair or not. And yet, the mechanic knew he had far more knowledge and experience to properly assess the situation and instead of keeping it to himself, he freely shared it with my friend to allow him to make a more informed decision.
In their approach to using social media, it’s important that businesses also recognize that they should be providing value to their followers instead of looking solely at what they’re able to promote about their products or services.
2. Focus on building relationships instead of making quick sells
Clearly, this mechanic’s focus wasn’t on simply trying to figure out what service he could sell to my friend. Instead, he was more interested in being able to help his customer by providing him with the best solution to his problem. By putting the needs of his client ahead of simply making a sale, this mechanic reinforced the level of trust my friend has with this garage.
Similarly, businesses need to demonstrate through their social media efforts that their presence on these sites is not driven only by how many products or services they can sell. Instead, what your customers need to see is that you’re interested in building relationships with them; interactions which can provide valuable insights into not only what happens after the sale is made, but how you can build on them or improve the experiences they had with your company.
3. It takes time to reap benefits from your efforts
One of the major hesitations most businesses have over getting involved in social media is how to quantify or measure the success behind their efforts. If we look at what this mechanic did, we see a similar dilemma at play.
After all, what did the mechanic gain from his efforts to help my friend find a suitable solution to his problem? Certainly, it wasn’t a paying customer since his recommendation was for my friend to pay another garage to repair his car. And yet, it also reinforced a feeling of trust and integrity to their interactions, something that will definitely benefit this mechanic in the future, either in repeat business from my friend or through the much sought-after positive word of mouth.
Again, this goes back to the first two points which apply both to ‘real world’ business affairs and to using social media – that your efforts should be done from the vantage point of creating value for others while working on nurturing relationships with those you engage with. The ultimate benefit for businesses might not always be an immediate sale, but as with this mechanic, it can lead to something better – a returning customer who is happy to inform others about your business and with it, opening up your venture to new customer bases and opportunities for growth.
If you ask me, that alone makes being on social media – if not putting the needs of others before any short-term gains – well worth the price.
Tanveer Naseer is a business coach who works with small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop new strategies for growth and development that keeps the focus on what makes them passionate about their business. You can read more of his writings on leadership and workplace interactions on his award-winning blog at TanveerNaseer.com. You can also follow him on Twitter – @TanveerNaseer