It’s interesting to think that in today’s day and age one of the main methods for dealing with problems comes from a technology that didn’t even exist 15 years ago. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and email have become the go-to places when one has a problem. Whether its a personal or professional issue, the internet is full of ways to help us deal with them.
For me personally, my social networks have become a second life of sorts. An online version of me without the 3D effects. And with that version comes the ability to get things done that I ordinarily wouldn’t have time for, wouldn’t know how to address or wouldn’t care to fix. But social media helps the world interact so much more efficiently that anything is possible.
Take Twitter and Facebook for example: there are a ton of companies on Twitter now and more people are joining each day. Facebook recently hit 500 million users and if it were a country, would be the fourth largest in the world. So now that I know where the people are, its a safe bet that many companies will have a presence there too. Go where the customers are – you don’t want people to be conversing about you, and not have any input when the option is there. That’s just bad business. Not to say that you should do it just to do it – that line of thinking doesn’t work whether we’re talking about business or life. You should engage because there’s a need – a need to connect with the world and have a conversation.
Earlier this month, I had 3 different interactions with 3 separate companies. The first one was with Sears. I bought a black grill cover earlier this summer and now its grey, bordering on white. Since I bought a black one, I was not happy that it was no longer this color. So I hopped online, found their account on Twitter and tweeted my disappointment. I wasn’t mean, out of turn or anything like that, just a simple not happy message. At the very least it made me feel better, and I figured at the very best, I’d get a coupon or something. One thing to note – I did make sure the Sears account was active before I engaged. Who wants to tweets to a dead account? So I tweeted, they responded, and we started a conversation – then the unthinkable happened – it moved offline. Sears customer service actually called me (on the phone!), and I talked to a REAL person. I was super impressed. The lady was extremely helpful, very nice and at the end of our talk sent me a gift card for the price of the cover. Just like that. It arrived a week later, and then Sears called me and tweeted at me to make sure everything was ok. Great customer service.
The second and third interactions were with Tiny Prints and Shutterfly. I had bought things from each of them previously so every once in a while I’m offered discounts and coupons. I hadn’t purchased anything from Tiny Prints since before Baby R, and the email I got was enticing me to stay in touch and I’d get a $25 coupon code. I signed up for the newsletter but no code came. I signed up again, and no code. So I tweeted at Tiny Prints about my experience, and a day or so later I had the $25 sitting in my Tiny Prints account. Perfect. I wanted to order Baby R some stationary but was holding off because it was rather pricey. Now with my code, she’s got her stationary, I saved some money, and Tiny Prints still has a loyal (and happy!) customer.
Lastly, Shutterfly makes great photo albums that you can design yourself (or have them do it) and then they print and ship to you. Unfortuantely it was taking FOREVER to load some pictures to their site, and I missed a free book deal by a few hours. Again, I took to Twitter, tweeted about it, and the next day ordered my free book because they extended the promo for a few more days.
Now I’m not saying every company works this way or engages their customers using social media. Some just tweet deals, press releases or offer tips without interacting with others. But the ones that do interact, and do work with their customers are doing so very effectively. Social media can work to help connect customers with businesses, and it doesn’t always have to be asking for something. Tiny Prints frequently retweets positive messages, Shutterfly responds to Facebook posts, and Petunia Pickle Bottom regularly chats with fans on their Facebook page.
Using social media to interact with customers is a smart, simple and economical way to strengthen relationships. It’s also a great way to make a customer feel good, and want to patronize a business next time they’re in the market for said product. And you know what, I’ve told my stories to a lot of people recently, and nothing is more valuable than friendly referrals.