How do you communicate with your customers and vendors? Is it their preferred manner of communication? Every day, more companies in all industries are referring to their Facebook and Twitter pages. Do you have an account or page? Do you know what to do with it?
With so many different ways to communicate, it’s hard to keep up with all of the technology. While new technology seems cumbersome or difficult to learn, consider the value you offer your customers by using it to communicate what you want to say when they want to listen.
Nearly everyone is beyond basic cell phone usage now and knows that texting from your mobile is a viable option for short, quick, one-to-one communication. When you want to communicate with all of your customers, consider these three channels of social media communication: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Many of you with children probably have heard of these and think they are just that-communication tools for teenagers. But they are so much more than that.
GENERATE A FAN BASE
Facebook may have started out as a venue for family members and friends to share photos and keep in touch but it’s turned into much more. According to Facebook, there are more than 350 million active users. More than 700,000 local businesses have active pages on Facebook, and these pages have created more than 5.3 billion fans.
Clearly, Facebook has caught on in the business world, but do you know how to use it? As an employee/owner of a company, you should have a company page on Facebook. Make sure that your company’s page is very easy to find - use your company’s exact name on the page if you can. Then invite your customers to be fans of your company on Facebook. Be sure to include the link on all of your company e-mails and make regular posts on your Facebook page. Depending on the size of your company and type of business, you can use Facebook to communicate almost anything with your customers.
For example, Wind-lock Corporation has a Facebook page and recently ran a successful contest to entice their customers to become fans of their page. Now, the customers who are fans get notified first with special promotions, new information and product application videos on YouTube. The company uses the Facebook page as a platform to share all of this information with its customers.
“I think it’s a great idea for companies like Wind-lock and Dryvit to be on Facebook,” says Jerrold Ware-Ehlers, Branch Manager for Architectural Concepts Gulf Coast Inc., in Pensacola, Fla. “I am a fan of Wind-lock and so when I go in and look at my wall I do click on the announcements and links that they send.”
GET FOLLOWED ON TWITTER
Twitter is like a condensed version of Facebook. It is another social media network that enables its users to send and read other users’ updates known as tweets. Like Facebook, a user would set up an account and search for people to follow, and then start tweeting.
Tweets are intended to be very short and to the point. Many tweets include links to YouTube videos, longer stories on other sites or even blog postings. The one important difference between Facebook and Twitter is that you only have 140 character spaces to type your message-it was designed to be used from mobile devices. So, if you want to include a link in your tweet, you should use any of a number of web sites that will shorten your link address so that it will fit in the tweet. One such Web site is bit.ly.
The news industry is one example where the use of Twitter has been embraced. It gets an important message out quickly, bringing new meaning to the idea of getting the news first. The Pew Research Center reports that 76 percent of Twitter users use the Internet wirelessly. You can conclude that many people are tweeting from their mobile devices, many of which have the application. If you have news to get to your customers quickly, Twitter is fast becoming the most frequently used channel to do that.
In addition to keeping your Twitter followers up to date on your business, there are other ways to use Twitter. Consider it a networking tool to uncover potential customers and learn more about them, find out what’s being said about your company or follow companies similar to yours. Most Twitter users do not require permission for people to follow them.
BE SEEN ON YOUTUBE
YouTube found its initial popularity with teenagers sharing videos on line, but it has become a very useful visual tool. It claims to be the world’s largest online video community where millions of people watch and share originally created videos. YouTube is a Web site where anyone can upload video clips and then share them with anyone who finds them.
One example most of us are familiar with is the video of the “Britain’s Got Talent” show and the performance by Susan Boyle. This video was one of the top viewed videos of 2009, getting Boyle a lot of international coverage.
Businesses are now using YouTube to share product information. With a camcorder and a computer, it is now easier than ever to show your customers how to use the products you sell.
For example, type in “EIFS” in YouTube’s search box and you will see results including an application video from Sto Corp., impact testing video from BASF Wall Systems and accessory videos from Wind-lock. If you are only looking for application videos, refine your search to “EIFS Application.”
People in remote areas use the Internet to get products that aren’t easy to find in their area. A homeowner found a Dow product on the Internet, contacted Dow and was referred to Wind-lock. When he went to Wind-lock’s Web site, he found the link to the YouTube video for a Froth-Pak.
“I found exactly what I needed, and I watched a video to see if the product would do what I needed it to do,” says John Ecker of Eagles Mere, Pa. “I didn’t have to waste time with asking for a catalogue; I saw the video and I called to order the product.”
YouTube videos can benefit your company in so many ways. Introducing a new product? Send an email to your customers with a link to a YouTube video about the product. Does a customer need special training? Save the cost of the plane ticket and create a training video and put it on YouTube for the customer.
TYING SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS TOGETHER
There are a variety of ways to use each of these social media networks. Some people are on Facebook and not on Twitter and vice versa. Learn how to use the channels together to reach all your targets in their preferred manner with the same message-after all, it’s free. Currently there are no charges involved to set up your company accounts and use these networks.
Consider that idea of a new product announcement-you can upload a video about the product on YouTube and then include that YouTube video right on to the Facebook posting that announces the product. Then, you can send a tweet announcing the product with the link to the video. If you still have customers who aren’t on board with Facebook or Twitter, you can send an old-fashioned e-mail with a link to the Facebook posting.
It’s certainly not necessary to be involved in each of these channels of communication. Twitter and Facebook require regular attention, and if your company can’t dedicate time to both, then pick the one that you think your customers use the most. Be sure you are keeping up with communication technology. If you aren’t communicating with your customers, they might be communicating with someone else.