Social media is new and we’re just now exploring all the things it CAN do. We’re learning that while social media CAN do many things – it’s better at facilitating some business tasks better than others.
Despite the fact that in the beginning, it looked like social media was going to be a GREAT way to generate sales leads, we’re now discovering that’s not the case. Even though social media communication tools are chocked full of various ways to analyze the various interactions we have using – it turns out the biggest lesson may be that those tools are only able to measure LINEAR movement through the sales process. We’re learning yet again that the sales PROCESS is anything but linear.
While the results of the big “social media as lead generation tool” experiement may be disappointing – there is a HUGE bright spot on the horizon.
Social media is a WONDERFULLY effective tool for providing valuable feedback.
Customer feedback is vital to the success of any business. In the past, businesses have had to resort to “unnatural” methods to access customer feedback. One common method used to this day is to herd customers into a room and watch through a two way mirror as they “openly discuss” the product in question. Until recently, this was the
“it’s the best we can do” option. After all, we couldn’t EAVESDROP on actual conversations – so we have to pay people who might be our customers to sit and discuss their opinions. The fact that in many cases – these people were NOT our customers was just something we had to accept as a flaw we couldn’t address or correct. People with jobs and families usually won’t take a day off to talk about deodorant with other strangers – so we’ll talk to people who will.
Enter social media – and suddenly setting up a Google Alert allows us to “eavesdrop” on the written conversations of tens of millions of people. Since it’s happening “naturally” – businesses can rest assured that the conversations happening in social media are the REAL issues – and not one targeted by a planning committee.
Feedback is of critical importance to the health and well being of a business. Social media makes it easy to listen in – to not only the conversations about YOUR product or service – but the products and services of your competitors. Oh the gold mine of information that is called SOCIAL MEDIA.
The value of customer feedback was driven home to me a few days ago when I paid a visit to my local health food store. The shelves were two thirds empty and there was a hand written sign at the cash wrap announcing discounts if you’ll use the green stuff to buy your green stuff (herbs, natural foods and supplements). Then, I heard a radio ad for the store on my way home. The owner does her own radio ads and unfortunately – you can hear it in her voice. Things are not going well at the local health food store.
This local health food store isn’t online in any way as far as I know. The only “technology” is the cash register – and there’s only one that can process a debit card. There isn’t a newsletter, or an email list or even a web site. Even though I’m a regular customer – the owner doesn’t know my name or what I do for a living.
The way I formed a connection with the store owner was one day I asked for her advice one. My life had gotten out of balance (read about that here in Achieve Success While Maintaining a Healthy Work Life Balance) and I needed help getting “back on track”. While I poked fun at one of her suggestions – Hemp bagels.. (When You Hear Hemp, Do you Think “Rope” or “Dope”?) overall, she recommended a variety of supplements which I continue to purchase and use to this day.
Notice – I reached out to her but she did not reach back out to me – her customer. During the two and a half years I’ve been a customer of the store – there’s never been an opportunity for me to offer feedback to the store’s owner.
- When she stopped carrying the natural licorice my children adored – I told the clerk who rang me up – and nothing happened.
- When the supplements were “reorganized” on the shelves and I couldn’t find the products I needed – I wasn’t able to offer an input.
- When I couldn’t find a product which health food bloggers are raving about – I asked the clerk about the possibility of getting the product. The clerk didn’t even bother to write down the name of the product I was seeking or even PRETEND that there was a possibility of carrying the product.
Despite the lack of input – and even though it was infinitely EASIER to order the products I need online – I feel a certain responsibility towards the owner of this health food store. After all, I wouldn’t have known about half of the products if she hadn’t personally recommended them to me, so I’ve made the effort to continue to patronize the shop. However, since my oldest son has now graduated from high school – the health food store is now a trip in and of itself. So when I made a special trip and discovered that half of the things I needed weren’t in stock – I was disappointed and saddened.
I was disappointed because I have a feeling that the next time I make the trip to the health food store – it won’t be there. The reason it won’t be there is simple – the store owner was operating without the benefit of customer feedback.
There’s no doubt about it – the store owner has a gift. I described my symptoms and she darted from aisle to aisle, gathering the various “cures” for what ailed me. What she probably doesn’t know is that when she’s not there – no one helps. During her “trip” around the store with me – she placed about $300 into my basket. The last time I went – I spent $50. If she were tracking sales by customer – which she isn’t – it would be easy for her to look at the “figures” and interpret them as, “She spent less because of the lousy economy.” It would be easy – but it wouldn’t be true. There were two factors which greatly contributed to my significantly reduced average purchase:
- The products I wanted were not in stock
- When I asked the clerk to find the products, she simply told me they weren’t in stock. She didn’t offer an alternative that was in stock – it was “too bad -we’re out.”
The technology that is driving social media has a lot of potential to provide significant and valuable information to businesses. However, it still takes human insight to interpret that information. Sure – the process of analyzing the information is labor intensive – and it’s not easily outsourced for $2 an hour. However, there is truly GOLDEN INFORMATION to be mined using social media.
The true GOLD in social media is the unaltered and natural feedback delivered in REAL TIME from actual consumers. Feedback isn’t always pretty – but it’s essential to know what customers are saying. They’ve always been talking – now thanks to social media, you can eavesdrop on the conversations that are happening “online”.
The fact that this tool can ALSO gather and produce a sales lead or two along the way is just icing on an already nutritious and delicious cake.