When I saw the comic on communication that Jeff Burkholder drew for me yesterday, it got me thinking about how we communicate, or not, both as individuals and businesses. Many of us have used online communication as a replacement for personal, face to face communication. In the business world, when we talk about social media, we throw the word engagement around and spend a lot of time talking about how it’s not enough just to create social profiles, but we must use them to “engage” with our customers.
But that still isn’t enough, especially when it comes to how small businesses use platforms like Facebook. Generally when we discuss the topic of engagement, we are referring to the process of posting public updates, and then responding to those who comment or post. Conversations and discussions occur, and we move on. But that’s just the first part of the equation.
Jeff’s comic got me thinking about how my personal communication has changed over the years as I’ve connected with more people online, both existing “real world” friends and new “online” friends.
When I do a quick inventory of my social graph, I’m actively using a few platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. And to a lesser extent, Google +, Foursquare, and Get Glue. There are probably others that I can’t remember, but if I can’t remember them, they must not be that important to me.
But beyond the larger scale, public types of social engagement, I also use a lot of other private or semi-private modes of conversation. And the ones I use often depend on the preferences of the person with whom I’m communicating. With some, I use email, while with others I might use G-chat or Facebook messaging. Then there is Skype (both chat and video) as well as Google Hangouts and Google Voice. I might communicate with some folks via Twitter direct message. And I’ve even used Spotify to communicate privately with some friends. Oh, and don’t forget cell phones, for both calls and texting.
Beyond that there are the dozens of mobile apps you can download for various types of calling, texting, and video chat. I’m now investigating a number of those for my android tablet.
Engagement via social media goes beyond the public and into the private, and there are many options. Small businesses need to make sure they move past what we have popularly termed engagement to more private, one-on-one with some of our customers an potential customers. Certainly Twitter is built nicely for personal communication, but Facebook upped the game last year when they added the ability of personal messaging to their business pages. And now Google + is making its move by allowing business pages to interact with individuals on a limited basis.
Many businesses, including your competitors, are using social media. Sadly, many of them aren’t using it very well. But if your competitors are doing the same thing you are, you need to up your game and build relationships beyond the Facebook wall. Reach out to customers on an individual basis. Contact them when appropriate; offer them your private contact info. Just be careful that your attempts at engagement and contact aren’t seen as spammy.
You may need to use multiple tools, including some of the ones I mentioned previously. And you’ll need to use the ones your customers prefer, not just the ones you like.
Online communication and engagement via social media is a wonderful thing, and it can be awfully easy. But we can’t let it replace other more personal types of communication. That personal hands-on touch is what people want, and is what will set you apart from the others.
It’s time to get beyond the Facebook wall and find ways to engage individually. It will take time and effort, but it’s worth it.
How are you engaging with your customers on a more personal level?
- Social media “engagement” is not a strategy (businessesgrow.com)
- How Dunkin’ Donuts Builds a Connected Brand with Social Media (greatfinds.icrossing.com)
- Best of 2012: The Three Things Marketers Keep Forgetting About Facebook (inklingmedia.net)
- Stop Looking at Facebook’s Insights (inklingmedia.net)
- How To Grow Your Facebook Community (waxingunlyrical.com)