Did you have a local community store growing up? The grocer, coffee shop, newstand or diner? A place where you knew who ran the shop, they knew you, and you built a relationship one small conversation at a time.
Well, all businesses can now build this type of relationship with their customers, regardless of location, product or industry. One Tweet at a time. One comment at a time. One post at a time.
Business now have the ability to listen to what their customers are interested in, what bugs them, and engage in small conversations. What’s more, you don’t just get to see how they interact with your brand, but with your competitors, with their friends, and their entire network.
But sure, this is a lot of work. It’s not enough to ‘monitor’ your customers on social media, you have to constantly work to build real relationships, and be constantly watching your customers’ preferences and behaviors.
A few months back I was picking up lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant that I go to regularly. The owner is always behind the counter, a man in his late 50s. On that day, he was on the phone with the cable company talking about when they can fix his TV at home. He laughed when they asked him if they could stop by when he gets off work – he said, “You mean at 11:30 at night?” It was noon when this conversation took place, and he had clearly been there for awhile already. It was his store, and he worked it every hour it was open. It’s not that he didn’t have staff – there are many other employees around, and its a fairly large space, at least 25 tables, plus a healthy take-out business. But when his store is open, he is there, connecting with his customers.
Social media gives all businesses this kind of access to their customers – 24/7. Is it work? No, it’s an opportunity, to listen, to help, to grow your business. With social media, all businesses are small businesses.