I’m so pleased to see more and more small businesses embracing social media to market their businesses. Constant Contact’s Fall 2011 Attitudes and Outlooks Survey, released today, proves that the change is happening pretty rapidly: in the past six months, social media use among small businesses is up 8%, from 73% this spring.
And what’s really interesting is small businesses are beginning to recognize the value in engaging with customers who post comments to social platforms. About 60% of those surveyed said they respond to these comments, whether they’re negative or positive. So for every tweet, Facebook or Google + update or blog comment mentioning a brand, these companies are interacting with consumers in a way they weren’t just a few years ago.
The 40% who aren’t regularly responding to comments gave the following reasons:
- They don’t have time
- They don’t think it’s necessary
- They don’t know what to say
What about you? Do you respond to social media comments? Take this poll to see when our readers are responding:
Do You Respond to Social Media Comments?
- No, never (36%, 1,764 Votes)
- Only when asked a question (30%, 1,442 Votes)
- Yes, always (15%, 753 Votes)
- When I feel like it (11%, 546 Votes)
- When I have time (6%, 288 Votes)
- Only when comment is positive (1%, 59 Votes)
- Only when comment is negative (1%, 35 Votes)
Total Voters: 4,887
Why Interacting and Responding is Important
If you fell into that 40% of companies not responding, let me educate you on why you should. Consumers are rapidly becoming their own radio stations, and people are always listening. If they’re saying something good about you, you can reap the rewards. If they’re tweeting their frustrations about your company, your silence could cost you more customers. Brands who are stepping up to take blame and apologize are finding consumers more willing to forgive, and the damage doesn’t spread so far.
On the other hand, if people are saying great things about you, that’s all the more reason to interact! A Google + mention of how a customer loves your brand gives you the unique opportunity to build a relationship with that person. Social media users are loyal customers, especially when they’re treated right.
You can also learn a lot from consumers on social platforms. It’s like real-time market research. For free. You can respond to conversations, get opinions about your brand, and ask what customers would want in your products. Rather than building around assumptions, you can start with what the customer actually wants.
So I say: make the time. If you as the owner of your company don’t have time or interest to follow up on social media, hire someone to do it for you. This is becoming a must.
Don’t think it’s necessary? Just search for “USAirways” to see how many people are complaining about the airlines on Twitter. And there’s not a single reply back. This leaves a huge space for consumers to walk away and choose your competitor. And as for not knowing what to say, say what comes naturally. If it’s a negative comment, that should be an apology. If it’s positive, you should share the comment and thank the sender.
The rules of social media are still being created as we speak. But know that if you’re in the game, you’re in all the way, and that means that interacting with your customers is key.