It started with online community forums. Then Twitter provided a 140-character voice for people to rant with. But what really shifted customers with questions and complaints from their phones to the Web were Facebook and YouTube.
I don’t like giving much credit to Facebook, but there are so many great benefits for small businesses to take advantage of through their pages and profiles. YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google. YouTube has proven invaluable to businesses that discovered the success that posting directional videos on how to install and fix things can provide. The same goes for the anecdotal listings where customers share their personal experiences from using the product or service.
I spoke with owner and local radio show host Andrea Bray of Andrea's Fine Hats in Silver Spring, MD about how she uses her business's Facebook profile to not only maintain relations with established customers, but also connect with new customers.
"I use it to keep in touch with our customers and also for encouraging customer interest in a friendly way without intruding on their private space," says Bray. "On Facebook we rely on a form of word-of-mouth by inviting people to become friends with Andrea's Fine Hats."
Baruch Herzfeld uses YouTube to answer FAQs for his company, Zenofon.
“Ideally we want all the videos to be indexed by Google so our customers can just type their question into Google and they will be able to find the answer from us,” says Herzfeld. “The more media you produce to help customers navigate our website, the easier it is for customers to fix problems themselves. Customers would rather watch a video on how to fix a problem than call into a customer service help line.
When using social media to reach out to customers and keep them happy, it’s good to stick to rules of posting and interacting.
"We try to be friendly in our conversation," says Bray. "We keep the personality fun with various content. We recently did a post on different approaches to fashion gaffes."
Bray’s Miss Manners style posts have some loyal followers too.
"We had someone complain about a woman who wore a big hat in the seat in front of her at church. They wrote how they just wanted to knock it off. So we suggested looking up to heaven and not the hat! Then we have a message to the hat lady to think about not wearing it or sitting in the back."
Zenofon keeps a blog using WordPress and maps it with the URL Zenofon.com/news.
“We post the links to our instructional YouTube videos on our news page, our FAQ, and our Facebook page,” says Herzfeld.
Keeping Facebook interactions with her audience is a priority for Bray. With so few words per post, appreciating the economy of words and keeping things tactful are a huge part of Bray’s work ethic and integrity. Facebook is a good forum for people to talk openly and fair in its language.
"Something might suck, but ‘sucks’ is not an approachable word," says Bray. "Even if you want to use it, find a better word. As a business you have to have taste, courtesy and respect. Our society is lacking in that kind of good taste and especially seems to forget when on Facebook. Always be aware of what you are saying because not everyone will find it as agreeable as you do.”
Involving customers in short, quickly shot videos has proven to be an effective and engaging experience. Herzfeld uses Jing Pro so he can make easy-to-upload YouTube and Facebook MP4 videos. The application tracks mouse movements as Herzfeld speaks and opens up pages when explaining to customers how to fix problems themselves.
“I make videos of conversations with customers because people feel uncomfortable talking by themselves to a computer,” says Herzfeld. “It’s easier to walk through the problem together. I have customers call me on Skype so we have a recording and I make a video on top of that with me opening up the proper screens in coordination with their questions.
Of course, with the end of long on-hold-waiting-periods comes an oversaturated World Wide Web of people posting. Companies must now determine how they will leverage their community conversations to make way for this ever-improving, knowledgeable and engaging service process.
Image credit: Andy McMillan