Tag Archive for 'community building'

Social Media Builds Customer Communities

Two things are sure with regard to social media and businesses: 1) as a way to connect with customers, social media is here to stay; 2) social media will evolve into an essential, customer community-building tool every successful business - large or small - will use.

“Social media” is the technology that makes online community building possible, not the community itself. It allows for the creation of, and service to, online communities, where dialogue and interaction among community founders and members are possible. While the term “social media” is handy, it would serve businesses well to think of it as “building online customer communities.”

There are two primary examples of these communities:

1.      A company’s profile and “fan page” on sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Your company can build communities with these public platforms, which are free, but have limits.

2.      Communities founded and hosted by your company and oriented around relationships with customers and prospects. This type of community is established when customers subscribe to one or more of your channel offerings in order to receive information. There is now new technology emerging that helps you create a Facebook-like social media platform that you host, which I predict will become the next killer app.

A channel is a syndication tool or method of content delivery and service to a community. For example, real simple syndication (RSS), a blog, email marketing, including an email newsletter (ezine), a text (SMS), and Twitter are channel tools, through which businesses serve their customer communities.

A website is a very important part of your online presence, but it is not a very effective community-building tool. However, a website can become a platform from which you launch and serve customer communities. Think of your website as the living room where you entertain new friends and social media communities as the den you share with close friends.

There is one critically important thing for a founding company to understand about both of the online customer community types: The company cannot control community behavior.  Members - customers and prospects - control the conversation in the community. The founding company can only create and influence the community by establishing and demonstrating community values.

If value is the threshold of a community relationship, values are the foundation. Get started building online customer communities.

On The Small Business Advocate Show I’ve talked quite a bit about building customer communities and social media on my radio program. Click here to see and listen…

What is a blog anyway and why should small business care?

A blog is the contraction for web log; it’s a 21st century way to easily and inexpensively publish your ideas online. With a blog you can connect with others who read what you wrote, have a point of view or question and begin a “thread” of comments about that topic.

By this point on the social media time continuum, many people think that defining a blog is such an elementary task that it’s tantamount to describing a computer. Those same social media elites should know that here in the real world, where Main Street small businesses live, most people actually have many un-Tweeted thoughts.  But none of the foregoing diminishes the fact that small business owners should be connecting more online with their customers, present and future, and one of the best ways to do that is through a blog.

Small business owners typically don’t appreciate how much they are world-class experts on their industry and product applications, including what not to do. They also too often don’t realize how much their customers want and need to hear that kind of information.  And what about that “I can’t write” excuse? Well, it pains me to say that their customers would rather hear from a get-to-the-point person they know than from some smart-alecy wordsmith like me.  Then there is that “I don’t have time” excuse. Once your platform is set up, blogging doesn’t take much time, it costs virtually nothing and the ROI can be enormous.

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with a long-time member of my Brain Trust, Karen Cortell Reisman. In the two segments below we talk about blogs, how they work and what the value is for a small business. Karen is President of Speak For Yourself®and a world-class expert on customer communication. Take a few minutes to listen to our discussion and, as always, leave your comments.

What is a blog, anyway?: Listen Live! Download, Too!

What would a small business blog looks like: Listen Live! Download, Too!

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