Online business is all about building that special relationship with your customers – sometimes before they actually become customers. The Internet and the growth of e-commerce have posed a choice for business owners; you can either soldier on and go about your business as a faceless member of a brand or you can open your doors and let people know just who does what, and give them a platform where they can tell you exactly what they think about you.
Big businesses have a problem in this respect. With so many people working for them, there’s no real way to offer themselves up to build relationships. Coca Cola made a stab at it, with a series of adverts featuring workers saying nice things about their company. But the problem there is that it’s one-way street; there’s no interaction and no real way to build up anything like a relationship. This is where being a small business has an advantage and where social media comes into its own.
The point of social media in the business world is to communicate with potential clients in an informal way, with none of the hard-sell that can turn people off. Using platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, it’s possible to build up a rapport with people. They know what you’re selling (it says so on your page) but they will be far more inclined to use your company if they’ve established some sort of relationship with you. Steve Ove Fenne, the director of Tupperware Brands Corporation has gone one step further. He’s left his Facebook account open, so that anyone can chat with him, regardless of whether they’re customers or not. He says that: “This builds authenticity and helps consultants feel that the person they see on Facebook is real”.
Make Yourself Approachable
You don’t have to go as far as Fenne, but you might want to take a look at how you come across in the social-interaction zone. Check out the Intuit Facebook page as an example. Intuit is a huge company, but the way they use their Facebook page sends a clear message to consumers that they are approachable and honest. There’s very little product placement in the posts. Instead, they engage with people through asking questions, posting opinions or even putting out something silly and attention grabbing in their timeline. The underlying message is that Intuit is there for everyone; you’ve just got to find them. And, at the time of writing, nearly 60,000 people in theUK have spoken to or are engaged in some sort of communication with them.
And that’s the key word here – engagement. Social media isn’t just there for you to blanket-bomb people with glorified adverts. Modern consumers are far more interested in finding out about the people behind the brand. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional promotion, but the important thing with social media is to make that genuine connection.
Andrew Shipolov, Professor of Strategy at INSEAD, says that: “You need to build communities first, and then money will follow. If you use social media to get the money without building the communities with emotional capital inside, money will not follow.” It’s a simple lesson, but one that’s often overlooked. Make friends with people and they’ll be more inclined to trust you.