May 16, 2012

Power to the People

By Patrick Mahan

The rise of social media sites, like Facebook, have changed business forever. Those who think "it's silly" or a fad or a waste of time will be left in the dust.

Your competitors realize the importance of social media and are working right now to figure it out.

Here's the bottom line. In the old days, when a customer was thrilled - not just satisfied (big difference) - they would tell 3 to 5 of their friends. On the other hand, if they were disappointed (pissed), they would tell about 5 to 7 friends.

Today, however, the game has changed. Completely. Totally. Forever.

Social media has given consumers a platform and put a giant megaphone in their hands.

The latest research says that Facebook's 800 million users have an average of 245 "friends" each. So now, when a customer has a positive or negative experience with your business, what happens?

They post it on Facebook. Or Tweet it to all 245 of their friends. And if their story is interesting or shocking or compelling, then those friends might share it with their friends. And on and on.

This is something business owners have never faced. Sure, it's the ultimate form of word-of-mouth, which has been around forever, but now it's amplified and much more powerful than ever before.

This can be good news or bad news for your business depending on the kinds of experiences you're providing.

The days of a customer calling your service department to voice a complaint are fading fast. Now, complaints are aired in public (on Facebook) and you must be ready to deal with it. It's scary, but it's better than people talking bad about you behind your back. If it's out in the open, at least you have an opportunity to resolve the problem.

And it could be a golden opportunity. When prospects see how well you handle complaints - and turn unhappy customers into loyal customers - it strengthens their trust. It shows you truly care.

It's time to embrace social media. It's not a fad and it's not going away. It can be your friend or your foe.

Remember this... people like to do business with their friends. And social media gives you an 
unprecedented opportunity to strengthen and grow your network of friends. And... tap into their network of friends.

It's an inside-out marketing approach based on word-of-mouth, referrals and recommendations, as opposed to the old "spray and pray" mass marketing approach of casting a huge net and hoping to reel in a few fish.

As best-selling author and marketing guru Seth Godin says, the ultimate goal is to "turn strangers into friends and friends into customers". Social media allows you to do that like never before.

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