Energize with Social Media
So how you can use social media to get attention, then produce revenue?
Did you notice I said “get attention” first, then “produce revenue”? I usually get a blank stare when I ask people how they’re currently using social media. Small businesses don’t get it—heck, most people don’t get it, and rightfully so. It’s all so new. But it does work and you can get on board. It’s still early and the opportunities, endless. What social media brings to you is the ability to create awareness for your business or your brand. It’s not something you should expect to use to drive direct revenue, although that is possible.
One of the earliest uses of social media was as a customer support tool. Probably the most famous story is the one about the Comcast cable employee who fell asleep on a customer’s couch. The customer video taped the man sleeping and uploaded it to YouTube for the world to see, generating a firestorm of viral video views with the ensuing blog posts and word of mouth. Ouch, that’s a brand hit. But Comcast made everything better by being one of the first to get on board and use social media, Twitter in this case. Frank Eliason is easily the most famous customer service manager in the world these days because he came up with the idea of using Twitter to interact with customers.
Twitter helped companies quickly and cheaply answer questions and respond to customer complaints. It’s use as a customer service tool has enhanced current customer service systems, which has eased the load on call centers, thereby easing the load on costly mistakes and disgruntled customers.
Here’s how they do it:
- Do it. Get a Twitter account. What is Twitter? Just go to twitter.com, make an account and find out.. Or search Google for “What Is Twitter?”. Create an account for your business or brand.
- Listen. Go to Search.Twitter.com <http://Search. Twitter.com> and do a search for your business name. Congratulations, you’ve just tapped into a real-time conversation people are having about you. Now what?
- React. If you find a conversation online about your business, follow the person then engage them and offer to help them solve their problem.
- Wash, rinse, repeat.
Big companies with thousands of customers may choose to hire staff to do these types of things, but chances are you’re not going to do that. Tweetdeck (download free at Tweetdeck.com), or any of the Twitter third-party tools that exist today makes things easier. Tweetdeck allows you to monitor Twitter all the time. I set up a custom search for my name, my competitors’ names and any other terms that are pertinent to my business or industry. The Tweetdeck application stays up on my screen all day long allowing me to react when needed. No, you don’t have to stare at it all day. In fact, you don’t even have to check it constantly. But definitely pay attention to it at least once a day when you first create your account.
Since Comcast first led the way, corporate giants such as Dell, PepsiCo, JetBlue Airways, Whole Foods Market and others are beefing up direct communications with customers through social media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Why can’t you?
You have to. The days of having a wall between you and your customers are long gone. Besides, shouldn’t you want to know exactly what your customers, and potential customers, are saying about you? How much did you or your company pay for focus groups last quarter? How much do you shell out to companies to research what your customers like and dislike? There’s no need to pay for that information anymore. It’s all here, in the giant cloud of social media, ready for you to pluck out of the air and use to your advantage.
Unfortunately, Twitter is not going to replace your phone or e-mail. There are only about 3.5 million people on Twitter at this moment, leaving a wide gap between the majority of your customer base and those early adopters. Those numbers, however, are growing at an enormous pace.
Now maybe you’re thinking “This won’t make my business money?” and you’d be right, sorta. In the case of Comcast, the media coverage they’ve received has been worth millions in branding, and of course, fewer canceled customers and the obvious cost savings from having better support. Again, revenue is not always defined specifically as sales. So, as you can see, it can work in multiple ways. The point is that it does work.
There are other indirect ways to monetize social media, with customer service being one of those. Another way businesses do it is by lead generation. A recruiter lives and breathes on LinkedIn, building a massive base of potential referrals they can tap into. Sports betting information sites monitor Twitter for people talking about sports, then actively begin conversations with those people, with the eventual hope they will bring in new leads or customers. Restaurant owners create video blogs featuring their chefs teaching potential customers how to cook a medium-rare steak, then upload those videos to their Facebook fan pages, making their fans drool all over their keyboards.
Lewis Howes uses social media to build his brand, sell his books, promote his products and drive thousands of dollars into his bank account. Ok, so do countless other people just like Howes, but what is really interesting about the way Howes does it is he generates revenue online and offline. How do you use social media to generate offline revenue? What a concept! Howes is the creator of several Linkedin networking groups that he created for free within LinkedIn. For example, I met Howes because I joined his Cleveland LinkedIn Networking Group back in 2008. Over 8,000 regular people like you and me, but who live in the Cleveland area, joined this group to hopefully network with one another, possibly looking for career advancement and/or to generate new customers. Every few months, Howes creates a live event at a local restaurant that attracts 500 or so people, for which he charges a cover fee at the door and at which he sells his LinkedIn book.
As you can see from Howes’ example, you can use social media to attract customers just as well as you can use it to spread the word.
Of course, the lowest-hanging fruit when talking about using social media to generate attention is blatant self-promotion. I’ve always said, “Everyone’s a social media purist until they have something to promote.” It’s true and it’s called “social media.” It’s the same as if you had a party at your house and you were talking to your guests in your kitchen, except you’re doing it online. It’s the act of people getting together and communicating, and when you communicate, you often talk about your own stuff. You tell your friends about your trip to Cabo or the new foot cream you’re using and how much you love it. You’re socializing! Nothing wrong with that.
But there’s a flip side to that. Imagine at your same party, if you walked up to every single person and tried to sell them something. That’s the last party anyone will ever come to. Remember your friend who got in Amway or Mary Kay and kept wanting to stop over and chat? You quickly found out that “chat” meant, “I want to get you in my downline and sell you some of my junk.” Social media works in the same way. You’re not going to have any success constantly promoting. Resist the urge to over promote.
Of course, that’s exactly what you’re doing when you make a Facebook fan page, or when you post to Twitter that you’ve just uploaded a new blog post or video to YouTube. Those things are okay; in fact, those types of posts are probably the reason why your fans and followers connected with you in the first place. Understand there is a difference between talking about the things you are doing and trying to get someone to click on your affiliate link so you can make some jack.
Just like when someone signs up for your e-mail newsletter, or subscribes to your conteent on Twitter. Tweets, e-mails, Facebook updates…it’s all content. Don’t make apologies for the things you put out there. If they don’t like it, they can obviously unfollow or unfriend you at any time. Remember, this is business, not playtime.
I follow lots of businesses on Twitter because I like to get updates about what they’re doing or products or services they offer. @Fatwalletdeals on Twitter offers me deals and coupons and discounts on a variety of products. @mashable sends me updates on new stories they post. @Clevelanddotcom is the Twitter account for my local newspaper (The Plain Dealer), so I get instant updates on what’s happening in my city. And on and on. The point is, you should create a Twitter account to do the same thing. You should create a Facebook fan page for the same reason. Your customers are either going to choose to get that information from you in that manner, or they’re not. Remember, it’s their choice. Some people ONLY want me to contact them through Facebook. Some people ONLY want me to contact them through Twitter. As a businessman, I consider it my responsibility to ensure that I give them the options on how THEY want to communicate with me.
It’s a lot of hard work to use social media to make cash, but it is possible. As mentioned before, the reasons that many don’t want to try it is because they don’t understand how to do it, and then when they do, they realize how hard it is. Even a large business like Dell only makes a tiny amount of revenue, compared to their online retail sales which produces billions, from direct social media tactics.