Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Your Customers

There was a time in my earlier life when I was a computer software trainer and engineer, and people used to call me for help on their word processors, networks and operating systems. Now I know that I need mentors to assist me and fortunately I have found a few gems––one in particular I will share.

Last summer I attended a program given by the Mid-Michigan Chapter of the American Society for Training Development (ASTD). The speaker was Ryan Doom, a millennial generation entrepreneur who not only has the technical skill to understand and use the newer Internet communications, but also is talented in teaching a mixed-age group of people more like me. Those two skills are not often found together, and it is no wonder that Doom is successful in his East Lansing business, Web Ascender.  

I asked Doom to help explain how important some of the new Internet communication tools can be to customer service, customer retention, and of course, having fun. Ryan explained it much better than I could have:

New media, social media––you do not have to be concerned about what people are calling it––but you do have to know that people are talking about you and your company on the Internet.

When shopping for a new service or product, consumers used to turn to a friend or the Yellow Pages for advice. However, you can now ask a larger and more opinionated audience over the Internet. Finding product advice online started with sites like epinions.com where you can search for and rate products. This then evolved into sites like amazon.com, target.com and zappos.com, where you can actually rate products directly on their website.

This evolution of allowing consumers to give you feedback on your products or services directly on your website for others to see and use is terrifying to some businesses.  

But, the savvy Internet buyers are using this information to make educated buying decisions; they can get input from many other buyers on how the purchasing process went, how the product fit, if it was cheap or if it broke the first week. If businesses see this feedback on their website, it can help them tailor their products to their consumers, get rid of poor products; but most importantly, it makes them more trustworthy.

A business who openly allows visitors to interact and share information on their website is building trust with every visitor, and people buy from those that they trust. People buy from people they like; they buy from their friends, even if there is a price difference.

As communication and collaboration continue to progress, businesses now have many other places their consumers are using to discuss and share opinions about their products such as MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs and forums. They are already talking about you and you don’t even know it, and that’s where you need to start! You don’t have to become a Twitter expert, a Facebook guru, or know how to hook up your MySpace page. At first you only need to learn how to listen to what others are saying about you and your business. The easiest place to listen is on websites and blogs; and no, you do not have to browse the Internet every day looking for mentions of your company and products. All you need to do is sit back and relax; you can have that information come to you.

Using Google Alerts you can tell Google to send you an e-mail of any new content found on the Internet with certain keywords in it. Use this to enter in your company and product names and you will receive e-mails of any new mentions of your business. Once you listen to what the world is saying about your company, you can then determine if it is time for you to start learning about some of these other technologies to help you shape your company’s brand and online image.

Google Alerts is where Doom got me started and I recommend that you try it out too. I created two Alerts, but eventually had to remove one. The alert for “Capital Quality Initiative” continues to show me what my customers are seeing and saying about us on the Internet. But the one for “Adrian Bass” came up with way too many hits of people named “Adrian bass player.” You may be amazed (and hopefully pleased) at what you learn about your customers and your organization using Google Alerts at www.google.com/alerts.

Adrian Bass is director of Capital Quality Initiative (CQI) at Lansing Community College.  CQI inspires continuous improvement and excellence through learning opportunities for individuals and organizations to promote quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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