This post was written and published in the August 2011 issue of Edmond Active Magazine. I’m delighted to be their business and social media columnist.
Social media is a community, a place for friendships, business, and conversations. Not unlike the small town I grew up in of Mayetta, Kansas. People shared stories about their past, the town gossip, and recommendations on the best places to eat, avoid, and shop. The difference between social media and my small town, is that the recommendations and conversations happen online instead of the traditional places like your barber shop, the grocery store, the your child’s middle school basketball game. They’re happening online, and with social media you have an opportunity to engage your audience, clients, and customers as the conversations are happening instead of waiting for the latest scuttlebutt from the local gossip queen to move from her lips to your ears.
Yes, social media particularly Facebook is just like a small town.
Facebook: Your Business’s Online Front Porch
There are 750 million users now on Facebook spending between 6 and 18 hours a month planning high school reunions, connecting with colleagues, and making recommendations in an environment that is user and community based. Your community has the ability to spread the word in a way that traditional advertising and media always can’t. You can connect to customer in real time and on their own terms. Goodbye focus group and hello Facebook.
Consider the largest growing demographic on Facebook is aged 45 and over. This also happens to be the population with the most expendable income. And they’re here to connect with their children, catch up with old friends, and watch their grandchildren grow.
In a storefront or a business where family isn’t always discussed, it’s sometimes hard to make that personal connection with your customers. Facebook changes that. It allows for your biggest fans, current customers, friends, and family to connect sharing insights into whom they are. These insights allow you to make a more personal connection leading to more solid business contacts based on this shared story or connection.
Whether it’s a Facebook Group or Business Page, your engagement and conversation strategy will vary. For local businesses, it’s important to create a sense of community at your pages, inviting your core audience to response, share, and learn from one another. This could be in the form of a recipe swapping forum or sharing your product’s favorite feature or service. Larger organizations with a more broad reach can still engage their audience and should remember that their customers are also likely their current or future employees.
With social media, it’s no longer about you. It’s about your audience and your customer base making them feel welcome and comfortable to share their experience and personal stories with you as well as others positive as well as negative. Social media is another tool or platform to talk with your customers on their own dime. Not unlike the casual conversation with a friend or family member during the Friday night high school football game.
It’s your choice. You can either ignore or engage in the conversation. But consider how the people in your small town might react, if you didn’t say hello to passers by and neighbors on your own front porch. Not having a business presence on Facebook is just that.