The number of social media platforms seems to quadruple every month. Just when I think I'm up to speed, new ones appear.
However, regardless of the number that are out there, it is critical that you use the ones that your customers or prospects do. You must be everywhere that your customers are. People often ask me what my favorite platform is, and the answer is simple: It's where my customers want me to be.
I find many small business people only see social media as a one-way street. It's perceived to be a place where they can market their products in an inexpensive way (if they are using targeted media). It does work and it can be easily refined or changed based upon the results that you are getting. Fabulous! But is that the whole story?
No. Why do I say no? Because more than ever customers are using social media to ask for advice, get feedback and, frankly, complain. You need to use these platforms to hear what customers are saying about you, about other products they use and to uncover their pain points. It can be a great replacement or supplement to traditional market research and much less expensive and time consuming. It's an inexpensive way to gain tremendous insight into your customers and to be ready to meet their emerging needs. It's a great way to listen to your customers.
However, listening is just one part of the equation. More and more customers expect an instant response to their communication. Therefore, you need to be constantly monitoring what is being put out there. If you don't have time to do it, hire someone to do it for you. Research has shown that customers want an instant response, especially to a complaint. It's also been proven that when a customer gets immediate feedback, their loyalty to the brand increases. Conversely, when there is no response, the negative feedback often goes viral. You don't want to be there. Once this happens, it is almost impossible to do damage control.
So regardless of what platform your customers are using, be sure to be there and be immediately responsive. Use the information that you are gathering to deliver a better customer experience. And use the insight to develop new products before your competition does.
Kathy McShane is managing director of Ladies Who Launch, Connecticut. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or ladieswholaunch.com/southwestct.