Blogging to Connect with Customers

PatrickThose that have begun the process of using social media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. start by being driven by a desire to get their name out on the web. They understand the value of being visible and being found but still use the tools as one way – push your message out there, vehicles.

The reality is that social media is a powerful, real time, opportunity to connect with customers. To showcase your knowledge and to invite questions, comments or opinions.

In a recent blog post writer Lisa Barone asks the question “should you blog to consumers or contempories?” In other words – who are you writing for? 

One school of thought has the purpose of blogging to be connecting with others in the industry – to be a thought leader to your peers. To be the one others “retweet” or comment about.

Lisa has a different view – one that I tend to agree with wholeheartedly:

For a small business owner, I think your blogging investment is far better spent producing content for your customers, not for your colleagues in the industry.

She goes on to list some very compelling reasons:

  • Your customers are the one performing searches – looking for a person or company  with your expertise.
  • You need to build authority with customers, not colleagues. Afterall – who is the one buying from you?
  • You want to start conversation with customers, not colleagues.  – So true!
  • Your customers are checking for your pulse, no one else. They want to buy from someone they like and trust and what better way to learn more about you, what you know and what you stand for then by reading your blog posts?

Read Lisa’s entire blog post here.

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Twitter the Customer Connector

twitter logoIf you aren’t using Twitter to connect with your customers – you are missing out on a great, real time venue.

This weekend I discovered an article by Jeff Bullas about how the Fortune 100 companies are using (or not, as is the case) Twitter to be connected with their customers.

It turns out that although I just saw the article yesterday, he actually wrote it two years ago. Since that time, the Fortune 100 companies have improved their use of Twitter, but the issues Jeff uncovers are still true for the majority of companies out there.

The biggest issue?

If a company is using Twitter, it is still as a platform for focusing on their sales or their primary brand message.  People/companies are still missing the obvious use of Twitter and that is as a real time connector to their customers.

At the end of the article, Jeff shares five steps for using Twitter to be connected to customers and 7 Twitter Best Practices:

Weber Shandwick prescribed five essential steps as a starting point for Fortune 100 companies to create true engagement and market interaction on Twitter:

1.Listen to conversations

2.Participate in conversations

3.Update frequently with valuable information

4.Reply to people who talk about issues that are important to your company

5.Retweet relevant conversations

So here are “7  Twitter Best Practices” from the study revealing that in the majority, the Fortune 100 were not implementing

  1. Listen to and monitor conversations
  2. Participate in conversations instead of just listening
  3. Provide frequent updates with valuable information that can demonstrate thought leadership.
  4. Have a large number of followers
  5. Reply to people who talk about issues that are important to them rather than sit on the sidelines
  6. Retweet those conversations which can help promote the brand
  7. Reply or refer to other accounts with @username, and in turn, they are referred to by other accounts.

Ask yourself – are you using Twitter just to push out your blog RSS feed or talk about your latest product? Last week, I talked about how I used Twitter as a “CB radio” while driving to a meeting. (my car was not moving when I used Twitter) I can’t reinforce the value of the real time discussion enough.

In a recent article by Chris Brogan that appeared in Entrepreneur Magazine, he also talked about the value of Twitter as a customer connector and suggests subscribing to the RSS feeds for your key word phrases. Go to http://search.twitter.com to search for conversations in your industry. Look for ways to interject or help out.

Twitter shouldn’t be discounted as a silly waste of time. It is the only social media venue in which you can engage your customers or prospects in real time discussions to help improve their experience and improve your business.

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Assumptions are the Holy Grail

holy grailOkay – that title requires some explanation.

Imagine a world in which your customer is so convinced that you’ll be there for them, when they need you, with the answers they need in a easy to use fashion – every time that they just assume it as fact.

They assume you’ll meet their needs.  So much so that they don’t even consider your competition as an option. That would be the holy grail.

Well, I feel that way about Mail Chimp. mail chimp

I have been a customer of Mail Chimp since 2005 – using them for my e-newsletter, my email list management, my auto responders and sign up forms. Usually when people talk about companies that provide these services they mention Constant Contact or Aweber or some other online service and I’m always quick to add:  “and Mail Chimp.”

They offer the same services, at similar pricing, with DIY templates or build your own options all with a fun monkey brand.  When I first looked for a company to use, I went to Constant Contact but their DIY process was confusing and I quickly gave up. When I heard about Mail Chimp I thought – hey, if a monkey can do it….

Sure enough – it was a piece of cake and a banana too. Over time I have heard about the competition offering new bells and whistles and sure enough when I went back to my account, I discovered that I could do the same with Mail Chimp.

Last month I tried and failed to embed a video in my newsletter, however, I didn’t realize that it hadn’t worked until the newsletter had gone out to my email list. Disappointed – I sent a follow up email with a link to the video and an apology.

Within minutes – and I mean that – minutes – I had a tweet from Mail chimp telling me how I could embed the video in the future.

The month before that I had tweeted a question about Mail Chimp and again had a message from them shortly after with the answer.

So today I decided to make some changes to my newsletter sign up form. Rather than have it embedded in the side bar – I longed for a pop up that would appear in the middle of the page. But in my dream world, that pop up would wait for a little while before popping up so people would have a chance to visit the site and read a post.

I went out to my Mail Chimp account and didn’t find that option. So I ASSUMED that if I sent a tweet out to the Twitter world, I would get an answer. You see the head chimps at Mail Chimp scour the web for people commenting about them and asking questions and having issues and they jump right on the question and provide an answer. Sure enough – in less than an hour, I had a tweet with a positive answer and a link to a blog post with simple, easy to follow instructions.

They make it easy.

They are consistent.

They are connected.

They communicate.

They have the answers.

For me, they are the only choice. And that, my friends, is how I want my customers to feel about me. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful world? The ultimate prize? The Holy Grail? If ever there was an example of the value of being tuned into social media and the social conversation – this is it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, social conversations is a top ten trend for 2011 – I’d say Mail Chimp is ahead of the curve.

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Trends 2011 Social Shopping Leads the Way

Social Shopping – Another Way to Build Customer Relationships

I look forward to the each new Entrepreneur Magazine edition when it hits my mail box and this month is no exception. The trends for 2011 have been selected and social shopping comes right after Baby Boomers and Travel.

Why would a blog about building customer relationships care about social shopping? It is the word SOCIAL that perked up my ears.

Social implies conversation – give and take – gosh, let me say it – building relationships with customers. In the blurb about this up and coming trend, the author has this to say:

Companies no longer have total control over their brand’s message. That responsibility now falls in the hands of the social web with a recent surge of consumer product review sites like ThisNext, Viewpoints and Milo.

Consumers are voicing their opinions – hoping someone within the company is listening and willing to engage in conversation.

Last week, on the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, there was a two hour radio program replaying – for the first time – the interview the John and Yoko did just hours before he was killed. It aired on a local station and I listened, entralled, as I drove to an evening meeting. Sadly, I had to turn off the car and head into the building and missed the second half of the program.

I went online to the radio station’s website and found the program but no opportunity to download. I found the interview on YouTube but the program I had listened to offered additional commentary, 30 years later, from those that had been in the room at the time. So I emailed the station. I tweeted, I tried to call and got no response. In my email I offered to pay, if there was a fee for the download and yet still I received no response.

Social shopping requires that the company be willing to chat. Similar to when you physically enter a store and engage in conversation with a sales rep, 2011 will bring more of that same experience to the web. Customers are chatting, they are looking for conversation, however, unlike in person, companies are going to have to be active about how they participate and respond to consumers.  If not – that consumer will go elsewhere.

So how will you add social shopping to your agenda when it comes to connecting with customers this next year?

Do you have Google alerts set for your company name, primary products/services and industry key words so that you can see when someone mentioned you?

Do you have an RSS feed set up for the same items on Search.Twitter.com so you can be responsive when customers tweet?

As the article says – we no longer own the brand message of our company – the consumers do – so we’ll want to be actively listening to what they think and engage them in conversation in the coming year.

To read the complete article about 2011 trends.

To listen to John Lennon’s last interview – it is number 4 on the list and is 2-1/2 hours long.

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Us Media Radio: Where Relationships and Technology Collide

podcasting(reprint from Ohio Web Writer, my other site)

Starting this coming Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 10am est a new radio voice will be heard.  Actually, two voices.

Candace Benson of Camp Tech will be sharing her views from a technical perspective and yours truly from AllWrite Ink will be covering the customer relationship perspective.

Us Media Radio: Where Relationships and Technology collide happened by accident.

Two weeks ago Candace and I were in a meeting and someone mentioned that since the movie The Social Network hit the big screens, there have been new lawsuits against Mark Zuckerberg for invasion of privacy. Candace was appalled. “How can he possibly be held responsible for something that a person voluntarily signs up for?”

“Easy,” I countered. “He made it so difficult to actually make sure your privacy was protected by hiding all of the functionality in difficult to find places that people thought they were safe and private when in fact, they weren’t.”

The conversation went down hill from there.  Candace standing shoulder to shoulder with Mark Zuckerberg and me – representing the privacy of 500,000,000 friends. 

“Stop!” I said, “Before we harm our friendship.  This should be a radio show!”  And thus, Us Media Radio was born.

Every Tuesday morning from 10-10:30 EST we will share thoughts on how technology is making it possible, exciting, easy and potentially dangerous to connect with customers, peers and industry leaders. Speaking of industry leaders – most weeks we will have a guest on – a “subject matter expert” that will share their views on a particular brand of social media or marketing technology and Candace will ask the technology questions while I defend the rights of the customer.

The boxing gloves are on – hope you’ll tune in!. Call (805) 285-9848 this Tuesday at 10am EST to listen to us debate the movie The Social Network and Facebook.  Mark Zuckerberg – are you available?  Call in and meet your newest best friend – Candace Benson!

Starting this coming Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 10am est a new radio voice will be heard.  Actually, two voices.

Candace Benson of Camp Tech will be sharing her views from a technical perspective and yours truly from AllWrite Ink will be covering the customer relationship perspective.

Us Media Radio: Where Relationships and Technology collide happened by accident.

Two weeks ago Candace and I were in a meeting and someone mentioned that since the movie The Social Network hit the big screens, there have been new lawsuits against Mark Zuckerberg for invasion of privacy. Candace was appalled. “How can he possibly be held responsible for something that a person voluntarily signs up for?”

“Easy,” I countered. “He made it so difficult to actually make sure your privacy was protected by hiding all of the functionality in difficult to find places that people thought they were safe and private when in fact, they weren’t.”

The conversation went down hill from there.  Candace standing shoulder to shoulder with Mark Zuckerberg and me – representing the privacy of 500,000,000 friends. 

“Stop!” I said, “Before we harm our friendship.  This should be a radio show!”  And thus, Us Media Radio was born.

Every Tuesday morning from 10-10:30 EST we will share thoughts on how technology is making it possible, exciting, easy and potentially dangerous to connect with customers, peers and industry leaders. Speaking of industry leaders – most weeks we will have a guest on – a “subject matter expert” that will share their views on a particular brand of social media or marketing technology and Candace will ask the technology questions while I defend the rights of the customer.

The boxing gloves are on – hope you’ll tune in!. Call (805) 285-9848 this Tuesday at 10am EST to listen to us debate the movie The Social Network and Facebook.  Mark Zuckerberg – are you available?  Call in and meet your newest best friend – Candace Benson!

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United Breaks Guitars

I attended a recent TEEM meeting in Akron, actually I was the speaker, and after the dinner a gentleman come up and we were talking about building customer relationships and the latest trend of REAL TIME REVIEWS.

Customers are using their social media voice to share their customer service experiences. He asked if I had seen the video about United Airlines and how they broke a passenger’s guitar.  I said, I hadn’t and he said “oh, it is a classic case of real time reviews – you have to check it out.”

He was right – is a great example of the customer sharing their frustration with a big company as well as showcasing their talent. You can see that the video has had almost 10 MILLION views! It certainly spread a message of poor quality and a customer service department that doesn’t listen and makes customers jump through hoops!

If a customer wrote a song about their last experience with you – what would the song be about and would it go viral?

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Can Social Media Build Relationships?

Yesterday on LinkedIn I found a question started by Pete Radke  spurred on by an article he read.  His question: Does Social Media Weaken Relationships?

The comments are interesting – some that agree and some that don’t.  Here’s what I said:

I believe if we use social media as a way to connect – then yes, it can build wonderful relationships; with industry leaders as well as our customers/prospects. But if we use social media as a marketing tool and spend all our time selling – we run the real risk of damaging our brand.

The timing of this question is interesting. I wanted to write a blog post for my home based business blog and so went into my LinkedIn groups for home based business owners to see what current buzz I would find. In almost EVERY instance – the discussions weren’t conversations, they were links to articles, sales pitches for training sessions, products and webinars. All one way “look at me and buy from me” posts.

Not surprizing – there weren’t any comments. How is that a discussion? How does that build relationships?

I think if social media is used incorrectly, it in fact weakens not only relationships but our credibility and our brand positioning.

The question stayed with me and so I raised it at a business lunch.  Here’s what the group had to say:

Some use social MEDIA as another way to push information out. They focus on the word “media” as an extension of their marketing/media campaign and ignore the word “social” altogether.

Perhaps a better way to think of social media is as a social NETWORKING tool.  When we think of networking, we think of a give and take of information. Sharing information about our business and our perfect target prospect and in return, asking how we might help others connect with people who can help their business grow.

Someone else at the table offered this personal stat: I try to write eight status updates or blog posts about others for every one post that is a sales pitch for my business.

Interesting.

I have been harping that social media is a great way to connect with customers but if we are still unclear as to how to use this great and free tool as a relationship builder than doesn’t it just become more noise in an ever crowded marketing environment?

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Real Time Reviews via Mobile Devices – Are You Prepared?

the-biggest-shift-social-revolutionJust saw this link on a tweet The Biggest Shift Since the Industrial Revolution.

If your customer is between the ages of 18-35 – you need to learn to master the art of social media – or at the very least – be listening real close and often to what is being said. Of all of the stats in the article, here is the most valuable one:

“80% of Twitter users tweet using their mobile device.”  The author goes on to say “Imagine what that means for bad customer experiences?”

Eighty percent of what, you ask? Maybe it isn’t that many people.  Well, here’s another stat for you – “As of this year there are an average of 30 MILLION  tweets a day.”  And 75 MILLION users.  That’s a big chunk of your customers.

So how do you listen on Twitter?  Visit Search.Twitter.  Click on the Advanced Search button.  Enter your company name, your products, your industry key words and see what is being said.  You’ll see that you can subscribe to the feed for those key words and be notified the next time someone mentions your company or products. 

Take it a step further.  Scroll down the Advance Search page and click the sad face and/or the “?” and see  the negative reviews and questions being asked within Twitter.

You may not like it – but bottom line – social media, in some form or fashion, is here to stay and we need to jump in this afternoon and get connected.

For those of you in the NE Ohio region – I’ll be conducting a new series of hands-on workshops, once a week for four weeks on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Creating a Strategy starting next week.

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1 Great Tip for Reaching Customers

textingOn Tuesday I attended the Road to Success Business Symposium at Lakeland Community College. I was invited to speak on Earning Customer Loyalty – a great passion of mine, but the best part of my day was the keynote presentation by Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends.  She offered 7 trends for small business owners (I wrote about them at Home Based business blog) but one of the trends seemed most valuable for my customer relationships audience.

Create a mobile version of your website.

To be honest I have this on my list of things to do, but it is down at the bottom.  One of those, when I get around to it, tasks that I won’t ever complete.  Until now.  Anita shared these important facts.  There are 280 million computer users in the WORLD.  Those are the people that can view my AllWrite Ink  website and this blog and others that I contribute to.  That’s a nice hunk of people.  And don’t we want to be visible and available to those 280 million?  Of course.

Hold on to your hats.  There are 277 million mobile device users in this country (US) alone.  Almost as many computers in the world just in the US. People who might want to see my website on their handheld but because I haven’t developed a mobile version – they either can’t see it or can’t navigate easily. Wow.

Isn’t the goal to make it easy for our customers/prospects to do business with us?  If more and more use mobile devices to research, connect and purchase then shouldn’t that mean that our priorities need to shift when it comes to developing a mobile version of our website?  You Betcha! 

So what is the first step?  Well, when it comes to social media or technology my first stop is to the source: Mashable.  And yep – I found a Guide offering tips and advice for creating a mobile website.

So what is the one great tip?  Be visible and available to your customers and prospects where they live.  Since more and more are living with their mobile device firmly grasped in their hands; we need to make sure are easy to find and naviagate.

So who’s with me?  Shall we make it a goal to create a mobile version of our primary money-making website by the end of summer, if not sooner?  Okay – it’s a deal.  Let me know how you are doing, what resources you are using and how difficult it is.

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Create a Customer-Focused Social Media Strategy

 

cover

 We’ve dabbled in social media.  In some cases we have gotten quite good but are we focused?  There are many uses for participating in social media, but for me – the best benefit is the ability to connect with our customers – or our potential customers.  We have a make or break opportunity available to us when we use social media to actively listen to what is being said about us and our industry and to query those consumers for what is important to them.

I have put together a Customer-Focus Social Media Strategy workbook that I offer FREE to help get you started.  This is a workshop that I am invited to give on a regular basis and because I know you can’t come to Ohio and hear me speak, I have created a couple audio files that will walk you through each of the pages in the workbook. 

So first – grab your copy of the Customer-Focused Social Media Strategy workbook.

We start by filling out a quick questionnaire.

Social Media QuestionnaireHere is the link to the audio instruction for completing the questionnaire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next – let’s make sure we have all of our account information in a convenient location.  Cut down the stress and frustration levels by keeping track of your User Names and passwords. 

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Here is a lnk to the audio explanation for using the Social Media Account form.

 

 

 

 

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Now we move into the meat of your strategy. Create a Social Media Site Map for each of your brand images. The instructions for this form are broken into two parts:

Social Media Site Map – Part One

Social Media Site Map – Part Two

 

 

 

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Okay, you have your direction – you’ve identified the brand message and the target customer, now let’s think about the ways you can connect with those customers.  In the audio explanation for Opportunities to L.I.N.C. you’ll learn how often you should participate.

 

 

 

 

 

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Time to make a commitment.  In this final audio, you’ll make your commitment to what social media vehicle you’ll use and how often.  I share thoughts on how to fit social media into your schedule.  Time to make a commitment.

 

 

Best of luck as you put together your social media strategy and begin to connect with customers!

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