Often, businesses think about social media from the perspective of how they can use the tools to reach an audience, build a community, build a customer base, or similar perspectives. With that in mind, you choose to build a set of tools that you perceive will help the audience/customer do what you want them to do better, with less friction. In essence, you build what YOU want, not what they might need. Let’s consider that for a moment, starting with understanding more about how your customers might view your thoughts on implementing new things.
Can You Ask Them?
Perhaps you’re thinking your organization needs a blog. It’s okay to start with your reasoning and your ideas for what it will do for you, but is there value in asking your customers, and other stakeholders what might be useful to them? For instance, in a B2B environment, perhaps you’re thinking that a blog is a great way to keep existing customers up to speed on upcoming products. But maybe your customers don’t have time to stop and read more text in a given day. Maybe they’d prefer the updates in audio format. Would something like a podcast or even Utterz be the right tool to convey the same information? If it’s useful for your processes, ask. It might save you money, poor implementation, and lack of adoption.
Can You Make Things Easier?
Navigating a typical phone voice response unit (the automated systems that answer most customer service lines) is about as fun as sawing your own limbs off. We all know this. But these tools are in place as cost-cuttting. MANY companies try to ease this pain by making a website version of customer service that they hope helps people avoid the phone system (which also saves them even more money). Guess what? Those usually stink, too.
Would a forum/message board help? Could customers solve each other’s problems? Is there a way that you can reward customers who help others? Sure a message board seems like an old technology, and yet, when I look at the cutting edge equivalent of that functionality, Plurk, I see a community-driven, instant message board type of conversation. Not your style? How about a wiki?
Can You Facilitate Even More Value?
What if you visited a hotel, handed over your cell phone showing your SMS texted confirmation code, and received two keys at checkin without any hassle or fuss? Imagine the next step being an opt-in to the hotel’s ad-hoc social network, allowing you the opportunity to declare your presence, to announce that you were interested in business opportunities, and that you had availability for conversations during these two time periods over the next three days. When you check out, or if you’ve had enough, you opt back out, and you’re no longer part of that network.
Walk into a commercial bookstore in the US and there will be one small bookcase of staff picks. Beyond that, there’s absolutely zero recommendation built into the store. Online, Amazon.com facilitates my book interests in over a half dozen ways. Are there ways you can emulate that recommendation-rich environment for your products and services? Can you help customers help me? (And don’t check out of this concept if you’re in B2B. The same ideas apply).
What Does Your Audience Need?
It seems a strange step, but if you’re not asking for that kind of input, how are you part of this vaunted “conversation” that we say social media is all about? If you’re not asking, you don’t know. Don’t feel that you have to cater to every whim your customers and other stakeholders have, but don’t let people’s ideas fall on deaf ears. Respond to their suggestions. Be as timely as possible. And ask more than once. Things change.
In that same spirit, what do YOU need, you who are coming here for insight, ideas, and springboards for your own businesses? What’s useful to you, both in the content that I write about, and/or the design of the site? Does this work for you? How may I help?
Photo credit, Todd Baker