Social media has infiltrated the business world, creating both new opportunities and new challenges. Small businesses must figure out how to leverage platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. in a way that enhances their company and helps them better engage with their customers.
Following incorporation, most small business owners will assuredly create a Facebook site and a Twitter account, while others will ponder what to do, if anything, with LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram. But just creating a presence may not be enough. The real value centers on how to use social media once the presence has been established. While social media may seem easy, it actually requires time and resources in order to reap the full potential benefits. In many cases, it may be best to focus on one platform that’s most useful.
Improving customer service is one of the most obvious ways businesses can use social media to their advantage, but many companies haven’t embraced this yet.
Avaya, a telecommunications company, recently noted that only one in six (or 16 percent) of customers use Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to interact with businesses. Phone (84 percent) and email (80 percent) are still the preferred contact method of choice for product and service inquiries. Social media also trailed corporate websites (72 percent) and in-person (64 percent).
Another company, DMG Consulting, conducted a global study on whether companies were using social media for customer service. Among the findings, it found that more than two-thirds (67 percent) of businesses are already using social media for a variety of activities, which includes some form of customer service. Nevertheless, they found that few have actually determined how to effectively use social media to achieve their enterprise goals.
How Are Small Businesses Using Social Media today?
One of the nation’s most recognized leaders in customer service is Zappos, a company that leverages almost every online platform to communicate with customers and ensure they are receiving the best level of customer service possible.
Graham Kahr, a social scientist at Zappos, recently said that the company is, “really thinking about social as a way to deliver a highly curated experience for our customers.” He added that most of Zappos’ focus is on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.
According to the company, Zappos is using Instagram to, “help tell the story of our style shoots with behind-the-scenes photography, style tips, trends from the stylists and little pieces of Zappos culture along with creating social user-generated-content campaigns around Instagram hashtags.”
Zappos also embraces Twitter, with an account dedicated to 24/7 customer service. Some 25 employees from the customer loyalty department manage the account, with one person at a time driving the conversation.
Even so, Zappos knows that number will grow. New employees are taught about Twitter during orientation as a way to keep employees connected to one another, while also helping customers when they need it.
Kahr added that the “casual” nature of social media makes it “a great way” for Zappos to communicate with its customers. “We want to talk to them every way that they talk to us,” he said, adding that part of the company mission is to develop strategies to connect with customers over other platforms in 2013 such as Tout, Pose, Tumblr, Polyvore, Reddit, Medium, and SocialCam.