Two years ago this Tuesday, my husband and I opened our Cell Phone Repair business. As an avid Facebook user, I knew we needed a social media presence for our business. My husband, ironically, doesn’t understand why people want to communicate digitally instead of face to face and was not so sure.
A friend who worked in Communications explained that having a social media presence is no longer a choice for businesses and that the absence of a social media presence is actually a red flag for some consumers. She further advised that our fear of negative posts can be turned into opportunity if handled correctly. She urged us to have a small presence to attract and retain customers. We wouldn’t have to commit much time if we started small, she said. It will grow as we grow. We knew a social media presence was inevitable and, reluctantly, my husband agreed to start Facebook and Twitter pages for our business.
What have we learned in two years?
Our friend was right.
Businesses without a social media presence are conspicuous by their absence. Consumers have very high expectations. We expect to be able to find what we need immediately and in whatever format we are searching. And we wield that power. Those without a presence on the mainstream sites are left in the dust.
Complaints about businesses have always happened. A business cannot possibly please every single customer. Before social media, complaints were kept within one’s physical network. Now with a click of a few keys on a keyboard, complaints are broadcast to the world. Fortunately social media, unlike word of mouth, allows for a business to respond directly to the complaint.
But she was also wrong.
Having a social media presence is a lot of work. A small business owner is expected to know what the consumer wants to see, create posts that are attractive to their following (or at least not offend anyone), and devote the time to monitor the sites and respond to feedback within moments of it being posted. Because all the other duties of a small business owner have not changed, this added role either detracts from business duties or the owner’s down time. With social media, the owner must be online and alert 24/7.
And yes, there is an opportunity to reply to customer complaints and right issues. But the reply is further down the post (which may or may not be read), and there is no recourse (except litigation) to change a numbered rating. Recently we had an unhappy customer. Without contacting us to discuss the issue, she posted a negative review and one star rating. We replied, the issue was resolved and she promised to follow up with a positive review. It has been two weeks. We are not holding our breath.
Experience has taught us the pros and cons of social media for businesses. But, more importantly it has helped us understand its place in our marketing strategy. Social media is an investment in future customers. It does not replace traditional marketing techniques, it another tool in the toolkit.
We have also realized that the time invested in this new medium, must be balanced against our investments to generate our today customers. Google Adwords, radio ads, and providing an exceptional customer experience will bring customers into our store today. Being interesting, informative and accountable on social media will help generate our tomorrow customers.