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Losing Face on Social Media

Consumers that have a bad customer experience are increasingly using social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to tell their friends and contacts.

And three quarters of the people who heard about a bad experience that their friend had via social media stop doing business with the offending company.

The survey, by customer relationship management experts Convergys, also reveals that 83 per cent of customers that had a bad experience with an organisation told friends or colleagues. “Consumers are more empowered than ever to complain,” said David Lopes, director of technology and business development at Convergys. “Advancements in internet services mean we now live in an era of instant results and personalised attention.”

These findings have important implications for reputation management, since the average Facebook user has 130 friends as a potential audience to the complaint.

Some 35 per cent of customer survey respondents say they have read about a bad customer experience during the last six months on a social media channel. But most small companies do not have a social media presence and will be unaware of any damage being done to their reputation.

A recent survey of small businesses, undertaken by IFF Research, shows that only five per cent of SMEs say that they are exploiting Facebook effectively in order to market their business.

Big companies, such as Starbucks, have created extremely successful social media presences that reach millions of their customers and generate huge sales. Small businesses don’t have the same resources or customer base to exploit – but you can still be surprisingly effective if you get the basics right. Each of the social networking sites provides simple tips and easy-to-follow instructions on how to set up a presence. After all, it’s in their interests to make it straightforward to get you up and running.

The most important thing to remember is that any social media presence that you create for your business must give a clear idea of the services your business provides and explains how the customer can contact you or find you if they wish to visit.

Once those basics are in place, you can concentrate on building a following.  You are asking social media users to invest their time and attention on you – so what are you offering them? Promotions and discounts can work well, but if you don’t have the budget for special offers you need to try and ensure that the content you are offering is valuable to your potential customers.

Whatever business you run, you are an expert at what you do. Try and think about the information you have at your fingertips that might be useful to potential customers – and share it with them. For many small businesses, this might be as simple as providing local information and insights about your industry. And once you start, keep going. People will soon tire of returning to your sites if they are rarely updated. And who is likely to buy from you if you only post a “tweet” on Twitter a couple of times a month?

Finally, when you are up and running – make sure you connect all your different social media accounts. For example, Facebook can link with Twitter so that any status update on Facebook reflects as a “tweet”. And make sure that the themes and messages you are running across the different platforms link and are consistent. That doesn’t stop you trying something unique on each social media platform – but don’t send out mixed messages about your business.

It takes time to build an effective social media presence. Persistence and patience will pay dividends. Who knows, you might soon be the only business in your market and local area interacting effectively on social networks. And that must give your business a genuine competitive edge.

This article originally appeared in our October 2011 Loyalty Generator e-newsletter.