You can run but you can’t hide

A old post on News Limited’s website should still act as a wake-up call to any business concerned about their reputation. To (partially) quote from the entry: “A two-line Twitter post pushed my mortgage application from the Commonwealth Bank's "to do" list to an urgent priority.

The post said simply: "CBA f#$&ked up our loan approval so we're still waiting to exchange contracts". The post went on to say:

”One hour and 17 minutes after it went live I was contacted by someone offering help to solve my problem. That person was the head of Commonwealth Bank's customer service team.

“He told me the message made him "feel like crap" and the bank was only just beginning to understand how crucial social media sites were in maintaining the corporate giant's image. By 3pm the next day, my loan was formally approved.”

The writer said they had turned to Twitter after more than a month of delays. What this demonstrates is that corporate Australia is logging on and taking notice. Indeed this episode is perhaps the lead indicator of a seminal trend and the harbinger of e-word of mouth; a.k.a. social networking.

Failure to pay attention to this modern media phenomenon can hit your business hard and forever tarnish your reputation. Poor service in today’s world of e-word-of-mouth is not an option.

The shift 

It may not be of Star Treck impact but there’s been a shift occurring in consumer behaviour that has been driven by the massive adoption of broadband which has turned us into an “always on” consumer society. This has, in turn, dramatically increased the presence and use of social networks.

This “always on” capacity means that existing and prospective clients are using the Internet as their preferred research and information sourcing tool as well as for social networking.

Check your own behaviour: what is the first thing you do when someone tells you about a new movie that’s coming to town? You Google it. It’s that simple and it’s that obvious. And if you went to the movie and enjoyed it, you’re going to tell your social networks about it.

If you are not moving toward a more transparent relationship with clients, and a more outward marketing focus then you are not changing with the times and will be left behind.

More and more businesses today are making at least token efforts, adopting the latest in Social Networks in order to be seen to be a contemporary, relevant and a vital resource. And if you have an HR manager they’ll already be using Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and other social networking accounts to scan for talent.

Stretching your marketing budget

In the current economy there are restraints on marketing budgets, so free social marketing is a great alternative. Business owners should be involved in social sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.

But, this should not be a knee-jerk reaction. Rather, the business owner must have specific goals in mind in order to strategize about what he or she wants to get out of these efforts. Is it to increase business by a specific number of clients? Increase visibility? Sell more products or services?

 

  1. A business should at least be involved in the largest social networks, belong to forums and have a blog. Each of these Internet strategies is a way of positioning yourself and your business. For the innovative marketer there is the opportunity to create video or other interactive media that is subject matter driven. Your social network site should also respond to questions or problems or start a discussion.

 

  1. You also need a profile page on Facebook. It will tell readers about your business, the people and its product and services. If people join your Facebook group, there should be an expectation that they will spread the word.

Your website is a brochure to the world; this is an expansion of it. The principles are the same: people Google for information or people log on to your website. Facebook is another network, more social in origin but, increasingly an important business communications medium.

The time challenge

For business owners it can be another item on the ‘to do’ list. You put all those (social network) icons on your email, your website, displaying; advertising the fact that you’re a member and inviting a click or two. But here’s the challenge: readers have a high expectation that sites will be refreshed and updated often and on a regular basis.

Some business owners simply will not have time for this, yet the responsibility is overwhelming, so someone needs to do this. Answer? Delegate.

Statistics

  • FaceBook has over 1.4 billion monthly users.
  • LinkedIn has over 350 million users
  • Twitter has 302 million monthly users.
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