Social media blogs and social networks of like-minded consumers and are not only reporting the latest buyer trends and behavior, they are subtly dictating a buyer’s choice. They publicize, for example, what customers can expect in current product features and services. This information acts like a “satisfaction driver” literally biasing the customer even before they go out to shop about the “must-be” parts of their purchases. If your product fails to provide what customers take for granted, your sales will drop and your product reputation will quickly suffer. Imagine that next blog posting that mentions your product’s features or support services in a negative way! You need to know what customers are saying about your product and your reputation.
Provide a venue and build a relationship
Is your product or brand associated with a social media website? A user forum? A company blog? Leverage the sense of anonymity an online forum offers. Encourage active participation with polls, surveys, and “The Most Burning Question?” submissions. When have you ever had the opportunity to so cost-effectively talk to a customer on a one-to-one basis? There is overhead in terms of administrative time but the benefits will more than likely outweigh the costs. If you offer and initially promise participation of management; keep your word! If someone posts a comment, make certain someone in authority quickly responds with more than just a robotic thank you. You don’t have to agree with comments but, you do have to prove you have read them!
Post surveys and polls about your product to encourage participation
Make certain you clearly state when and where results will be published. See if anyone is paying attention. When posting results of your surveys and polls, use the interest generated to ask visitors to respond to either another poll or a sign up email list. Give information before you ask for a name and an email address. Remember that negative criticism more often than not is more valuable than praise and fearless publishing it is a mark of transparency (good management) and character.
Grow your brand and tell people about it
Developing name and “brand” recognition by “spreading it horizontally” into collateral areas in your geographic community, on the websites and forums of colleagues AND competitors in your industry, and, most important, in your “virtual business niche”. Consider providing “expert”answers on public forums. Offer charitable donations both in your local physical world as well as in cyberspace. Charity builds your persona, your online reputation, and your brand recognition. Telling your customers about your charity is not blatant self-promotion; it can be a public announcement.