For some, the mere mention of social media produces a spontaneous smile and causes their eyes to light up. To them, it represents the preferred way to communicate; they would be lost without it. Others groan audibly and roll their eyes at its utterance. Some give it a resigned yawn, quickly tuning out the discussion or leaving the room. Still others are desperately trying to figure it out, while some don’t understand the fuss, and more than a few simply don’t care. What is all the fuss? Why should you care? The reality is that we should all care, because the future of your business may be at stake.
For businesses social media allows you to promote your business, reach out to prospects, connect with clients, and recruit and support staff. Regarding this, there are two major considerations. First , if your competitor is providing customer service via social media, can you afford not to? Second, if the businesses that tap your labor pool use social media to find new hires, shouldn’t you do the same? These social media opportunities have been amply covered by others. However, before rushing into social media, consider the time it will take and personnel who will be involved.
Email: Email as both a prelude and an entry point to social media. Succinctly, everything you currently do with phone calls, you need to apply to email. Answer email, screen email, route email, add value to email, prioritize email, and escalate email.
Chat: Having the option to engage in text chat is an increasing expectation on consumer websites. You can do the same things with it that you currently do for the phone number that is listed there: answer questions, assist with site navigation, and keep visitors from abandoning their shopping cart.
Facebook: Making a Facebook page is easy. However, to be of use, relevant content needs to be posted and, more importantly, the people who “like” you deserve interaction. When customer service issues surface on Facebook, they need to be quickly addressed. Similarly, if an inquiry materializes, it warrants a speedy response – just be sure to follow social media etiquette; doing sales wrongly in social media can be a painful and damaging experience.
Blogging: Most blogs allow comments to be made, but to protect against spam, comments are often manually screened and approved. Additionally, a response to the comment is sometimes called for and a dialogue can take place, be it within the blog’s comment section or via email.
Twitter: Although Twitter is a broadcast medium, sometimes a tweet may warrant a personal response. Don’t forget to check your Twitter feed and then follow through.
Media Alerts: There are services that scan cyberspace for mentions of a word or phrase, such as a company’s name, a trademark, or an individual’s name. Although helpful, this information generally needs to be filtered. For example, one of the magazines that I publish is Connections Magazine. There are scores of magazines with “connections” in the title, so my media alert for “connections magazine” contains numerous false matches.
Other Ideas: These are just a few ideas. As you investigate social media, you will assuredly come up with more. Consider LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube.
If any of these seem worthwhile to you, then please check them out — otherwise, feel free to pass. Just don’t completely ignore social media – the future of your business may depend on it.
In pondering the question posed in this article’s title, social media is both an opportunity and a distraction. I’ve been on LinkedIn the longest, but have yet to complete my profile. I welcome those who want to become part of my network and occasionally send out similar requests to others, but I’ve yet to actually use it for something practical.
Next, after hearing horror stories of the time-consuming and even addictive nature of Facebook, I long resisted it, only acquiescing to it in the past year. Though Facebook held an initial intrigue, the criticism of it being a time-waster quickly proved true. I haven’t “checked” Facebook in weeks; I now use it primarily to communicate with friends who won’t respond to an email or phone call.
In answering the question of who will perform all these backend and follow-up activities, know that many, if not all of them, can be outsourced. For example, some contact centers specialize in providing email processing services and text chat services to their clients. Many of them can also address these other social media response issues as well.
Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit www.peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.