One thing I know about social media is that is a shiny and fun tool. I get it. I entered the social media game as a professional in 2007-2008. (Yeah, it’s been a minute.) Getting to know this new world from its mere beginnings has been quite interesting. Watching social media evolve from a place where college students and recent graduates connected into a billion dollar industry has been both exciting and painful. While we can spend time on diving into grown into the embodiment of capitalization, I’d prefer to take this time to talk about the impact it has had on how businesses interact with customers and vice versa.
There is likely not one business owner who had been in the game for more than 12 days who haven’t heard the importance of defining your target audience/market. That’s because once you know who your target market is, you can play follow the leader. You price according to their budgets, you determine how you meet their needs, and you work hard to “speak their language.”
The other benefit of knowing your target market is knowing where they are. Whether it’s understanding what they watch on TV, where they spend their time online, or the neighborhood they live, knowing where they are/spend their time gives you an indication of where to place your advertising. With the growth of social media, it became a no-brainer to get on board.
Check. Organizations moved to the likes of Facebook and Twitter in droves. Then there was Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, and TikTok. Oh, and let’s not forget blogs and YouTube. (Marketing and Advertising Departments are media junkies, but I digress.)
The creativity and innovation was like a breath of fresh air.
However, there was another side. Something that those who had been in business for years weren’t exactly ready for: the customer’s voice was now public.
Here’s the thing. In the past, businesses pushed messages to customers. Influence was primarily a one-way street. If a customer had a bad experience, they’d maybe ask to speak to a manager, tell you off over the phone or in person, or tell friends and family. It generally wouldn’t wouldn’t make it to the masses.
With the introduction of social media, there was a power shift. Businesses were no longer the primary holders of their brand; customers also had influence. If they liked something, they raved about it online. If it sucked, they would complain. And not only would they complain to their friends, they had the gumption to come onto your page…in your house…and complain about you. How the organization responded could make or break you. And, the good Lord knows that with the cancel culture we’re in, no one wants to be on the wrong side of cancel culture.
Small business owners tend to jump onto the social media bandwagon because it’s fast and cheap. (Or so they think.) Like with anything else, if it’s fast and cheap it comes with a different price. Seasoned marketers understand the cost and potential reward, so they treat these platforms as the gem that they are. They use them for research, engagement, and as a means to drive sales. More importantly, there is often a detailed strategy undergirding the aforementioned.
Additionally, there is almost always a body of rules that govern their online interactions. These social media rules guide how we interact with our audience, including those who can be poopyheads. They help us engage as respectful citizens and guests in a world that we can quickly be removed from. Equally important, they protect our coins and companies when we want to unleash the clapback (i.e. comeback) of a lifetime.
Because it’s better to be prepared than to react, I advise that each small business develops social media “rules”. Here are a list of questions that will help you develop that list.
How often do we post?
What days of the week do we post? (Don’t forget to consider weekends.)
What times of the day do we post?
What is our response time for comments?
How do we respond if someone complains? (Hint: Create a script.)
What are social media standards for employees?
What laws do we need to abide by? (Yes, there are laws. Ask the FTC and the FCC.)
What is our tone?
Who has access to our social media accounts?
What types of content do we post?
Success doesn’t just happen. The compilation of a number of small decisions and actions leads to that success. I understand that is it hard to separate personal from business when you’ve have put so much time, energy, and money into your baby. In the same vain, I admonish small business owners to not allow complaints to derail your success. Instead, be prepared, and respond accordingly. The proper response could, in fact, result in increased sales.