Beyond the Facebook Wall: Small Business and Online Engagement

by Ken Mueller on January 7, 2013 · 9 comments

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300px Stone wall 1r Beyond the Facebook Wall: Small Business and Online Engagement

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?

 Beyond the Facebook Wall: Small Business and Online Engagement
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4 comments
Bojan011
Bojan011

Awesome post. Beyond the Facebook wall. Seems like business are finally learning how to build communities and thrive. You don't need a large audience, you need an engaged audience.

richmistkowski
richmistkowski

Nice job!  I have been hearing a lot about engagement. But this is the first time that I can remember someone reminding people not to forget to engage in person.  I had lunch today with one of my customers.  I'm a bit "old school", but I think it still works.  It does for me.  There is no amount of social media that can replace a face to face meeting or lunch with a great customer.

I'm learning that social media can have a big impact on your business relationships and why it's important to participate.  But it's also important to understand the right way to participate.  I've finally figured out that the "online Rich" is pretty similar (identical?) to the "real world Rich". It took a while to understand how this whole thing works.  And I've got a long way to go. But the journey is "kind of" fun. 

Thanks for the post.  Happy 2013.


Rich

TweetWebMetrics
TweetWebMetrics

"It’s time to get beyond the Facebook wall and find ways to engage individually."

Bravo! Yes, the word "engagement" has buzzed around offices and businesses to the point of sputtering out. Reaching out and making those personal one-on-one connections (the human touch) takes the relationship to the next level. Instead of focusing solely on how many public interactions one can have in any given social media channel, it's incredibly worthwhile to build strong relationships with customers, potential customers, and colleagues behind the scenes. While I believe many business owners "know" this already, the knowledge gets left behind the minute they hit their Facebook (or any other social media) page.

Thanks for your post!

Tracy

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@TweetWebMetrics I agree, Tracy. I think most know it, but we don't turn that head knowledge into practical actions. Thanks for stopping by.

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