Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why EVERY Mountain Brook vendor should be using Social Media!

I've been developing social media for the Mountain Brook Chamber since April 2009.  Initially, like you, I was skeptical about the benefits, and I've joined just about everything on behalf of the chamber with a critical eye.   I've read hundreds of articles, followed lots of merchants and restaurants, both locally and nationally, as they market their products and I've seen both good news and complaints about products or services spread like wildfire.

I've also heard the many justifications for not using social media:  "I'm too busy. It's too superficial.  I don't understand technology. What can you say in 140 characters?  I think face-to-face contact is more important.  My customers don't use it.  It scares me.  I don't have anything important to say... "

Like you, I'm very busy, didn't want to waste my time, and had to be very disciplined about consistently using these new means of communication to properly evaluate the benefits.  I understand the feeling of drowning in technology and media - often expressed as receiving communication via a firehose!  It is undeniably difficult and overwhelming.   Regardless of all these things, I believe it is now IMPERATIVE that all our merchants and businesses choose a form of social media in order to communicate with their customers.

Why, because your customers (or potential customers) ARE using it, and THEY ARE TALKING!  They may be talking about YOU, both the good and the bad.  And if they're not talking about you, you're missing an unbelievable opportunity to increase your exposure.  

Social media is quickly becoming essential for all vendors wanting to provide good customer service! Via social media, responsible vendors immediately and publicly address problems before they become viral.  How do you do this?  Choose a social media venue and USE it!  Follow your brand.  Follow what people are saying about you via searches.  It can be Facebook,  LinkedIn, Twitter, a blog, an enewsletter, or any combination.  There are lots of them.  Find what works for you.  Find what's popular with your customers.  It's hard work!  And it takes time... You must consistently and patiently build a customer base, and then regularly communicate with your customers.  Not once a month, but once a day!  Provide value to them.  Share what you've learned.  Make them WANT to talk to you.  And make them feel comfortable bringing a problem to YOUR attention FIRST. 

In the process, follow those who can bring value to you!  There is LOTS of good information out there and I've learned so much - far more than I would have using any other venue.  Follow those with similar interests, or those you enjoy, or people in your region who might enjoy dropping by your store or who would benefit from your business.

I've  watched good customer service reps almost immediately address a problem before the customer even has a chance to ask about it by watching comments on Twitter.  Social media has made all this possible.  Friends tell friends and strangers both good and bad experiences - and on Twitter or Facebook,  business reputations can be both trashed, or made and restored overnight.

The good news is that if you are out there selling your product, you can develop a much broader audience and increase your sales through social media.  The bad news is that one bad customer experience can be spread immediately and exponentially and tarnish your company's reputation.  Don't you want to know about it first so that you can address it?  Don't you want to take advantage of leading edge technologies to increase your business?

Tell the Chamber how we can help you.   OUR business is YOUR business.  And we believe this is very important to OUR business. 

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