Tag Archive for 'Facebook'

The power of building customer communities

Incredibly, in 2017, here’s a question many small business owners ask: “We have a website, do we need a social media strategy, too?”

The answer is the same as for why you have an email address even though you have a phone.  It’s not either/or, but rather both/and. Because as outstanding and handy as your website may be, there’s one increasingly important capability you need that most websites aren’t good at: community building.

Once customers find you, returning to that beautiful website of yours will be of decreasing interest to them. It’s not that your new stuff - products, how-to information, order status, special offerings, etc. - is no longer of interest to customers. It’s just that they don’t want to have to come back to your website to get it. More and more, customers are saying to businesses, “I like what you offer, but I won’t be returning to your website much, because I’m very busy. Why don’t you follow me home with the new stuff?”

This is what customers and prospects mean when they join your community by giving you permission to connect with them and send them offers and helpful information by email, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. They just want the new stuff, including updates to your website. Even when they return to buy something on your e-commerce platform, they expect to enter your website through the offer page you sent them, not from your homepage.

Building online customer communities - and getting permission to follow customers home - is how a small business transcends being competitive and achieves the pinnacle position: relevance. As you may know, I define a business social media strategy as building customer communities. But by my definition, social media is much older and more comprehensive than the online platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Your customer community strategy includes everything you do to build, connect with and serve those communities, including: email marketing, customer loyalty programs, the new social media activity, and, of course, the original social media: face-to-face.

In the old days - way back in 2003 - your customer list was just names on an accounts receivable report or sales forecast. Today, those customers are part of your business’s community, which also includes prospects who’re just becoming interested in you. But unlike the passive customer list of old - and visitors to your website - this community is functioning and dynamic, with fast-evolving expectations you have to meet or they’ll defect to another community.

Another important component of building customer communities is allowing prospects and customers to see your corporate values. Increasingly, prospects will turn into customers, and customers will become loyal, because they’re attracted to what your company stands for, which is evident in the values you demonstrate, including online. For example:

1. Are your brand elements - brand promise and image - all about you and your stuff, or do they sound like something that would benefit your customer community?

2. When delivering information, is it all about you, or does it contribute to the community?

3. What’s the tone of your marketing message? “Tone” is how brand messages are incorporated as you serve the community, from crassly commercial to almost subliminal. You should strike a tone balance between serving the community and making a sale.

Notice all of these demonstrate values that favor relationships more and transactions less.

In a world where everything you sell is a commodity, value - product, price, service - is the threshold of a customer community, but values are the foundation. Value is easy to find these days. But when community members are attracted to your values, they keep coming back and bring their friends.

Write this on a rock … Build and serve customer communities with a website and social media strategy that demonstrates your values.

The new class of small business influencers

In The Age of the Seller, three groups mattered to a business for sales growth: suspects, prospects and customers. Let’s talk about these in order of appearance.

A suspect is anybody and everybody; think of the names in the local phone book. Initially, a business has no relationship with a suspect until contact is made in some way. Then, if the qualifying criteria turns them into a prospect, the relationship develops further until they’re converted into a customer, or not. For 10,000 years, of these three, only prospects and customers were influencers of a business.

In the Age of the Customer, which was born of the Internet, businesses have to learn how to operate where influencers are not only evaluating their traditional activity, but their online presence as well. And in the new Age, there are now three influencers: the original two, plus a new one.

The new influencer is users, and their impact is only online.

Like suspects in the original Age, users are people you probably have not yet developed a business relationship with. Unlike suspects, users become influencers of your business in at least five ways, but only if you have an Internet presence:

  1. Users find you online and appraise your offerings, information, and behavior before you know they exist.
  2. Users can influence others by posting their appraisal – good or not so much – on any of the commenting (Yelp) or social media platforms (Facebook). And even if the appraisal is not good, you still get the next three.
  3. The very act of users finding you, especially if they leave a commenting trail, reveals themselves to you.
  4. Some form of contact information (email, handle, cookie, etc.) is left behind.
  5. You can assume that the user has at least a tacit interest in what you do and sell.

Users are suspects on steroids. I have identified them as a new class of prospect, because as they wield their influence, they actually self-qualify themselves without any direct cost or involvement by you. How much could that impact your prospect development plan?

If you’re still unimpressed with the potential of this new group of influencers to your business, remember this: The drivers of value for the big social media platforms are not customers, but hundreds of millions of users. And every small business has the ability to convert a user into a paying customer in a way that makes Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn green with envy.

Develop a strategy to turn users into your new class of prospects.

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I have written and talked extensively on the new influencers and other facets of The Age of the Customer. Click here to listen, read or watch.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

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The Facebook lesson about the value of users

What would you say about a company that has 900 million people – one out of every 13 Earthlings – using its consumable product virtually every day? That’s an unbelievable marketing and product adoption success story, isn’t it?

As you probably have figured out, this company is Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform. And its consumable product is the time, attention and information these 900 million users give Facebook every time they log in.

The future of social media platforms, used to help us connect with and build communities among friends, family and customers, is no longer being debated. Social media may seem like a craze, but it’s not a fad and isn’t going away. But the future of social media platforms as publically traded companies is another matter, primarily because of their business model.

The business challenge for Facebook is that it doesn’t have 900 million customers, it has 900 million users. The distinction is that a user pays you a visit and a customer pays you money. Facebook is really good at getting users to engage and re-engage. But now that it’s a public company, there is new scrutiny from investors and fish-eyed analysts on how effective it will be long-term at getting advertising customers to pay for access to these users.

A few months ago, when Facebook first announced plans to go public, we asked our audience if they thought Facebook’s stock “… will prove to be a good investment?” Only nine percent said, “Yes,” with the rest not optimistic about the stock, especially for the long-term.

Recently, the weekend after Facebook’s initial public offering (IPO) launched – perhaps we should say, belly-flopped – amid more hype than we’ve seen since the “dot bomb” days of 1999, we wanted to see if our audience would “Like” the stock any better as a long-term investment, so we asked, “Do you want Facebook stock in your retirement portfolio?” Only 8% said yes.

It’s very encouraging how these two polls demonstrate that small business owners consistently understand the business model difference between the value of a user verses a customer. But the lesson isn’t that users are bad. Indeed, your small business’s digital users – who want to get to know you online before they buy – are the new breed of prospects: future customers who, unlike Facebook’s users, may one day pay you more than a visit.

Thank you, Facebook, for providing small businesses with a valuable lesson about users and customers.

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I talked more about the lessons small businesses can learn from Facebook on The Small Business Advocate Show. Click click on the links below to listen or download.

Lessons Facebook can teach small business about users

Why small business users are different from Facebook’s

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Differentiating between users and customers

Social media platforms have rocked the online world in just a few frenzied years by introducing new community building possibilities for people, and customer connection opportunities for business.

These are heady times for social media visionaries who have created a wave of viral excitement. This is the realm of entrepreneurs who worship at the throne of possibilities, where mistakes successfully identify what doesn’t work and fun is a best practice.

Now, like Gates and Jobs before them, social media entrepreneurs are following the path of past high-growth enterprises by hitching their wagons to Wall Street’s star through an initial public offering (IPO) of stock. But in doing so, companies like Facebook enter the world of very sharp pencils.

This is the realm of fish-eyed bankers and fickle fund managers who worship at the throne of results. They demand fealty, and an audience every 90 days to explain why actual operating numbers from the real marketplace missed – by one cent – what green-eye-shade analysts had divined with their theoretical financial models. And faster than you can “Like” a photo on Facebook, it becomes clear that mistakes in this realm come at a high cost, possibilities are not possible and fun isn’t in the budget.

Unlike Microsoft and Apple, which actually create products customers pay for, social media patrons aren’t paying customers, but users. And the only thing more fickle than a fund manager is an Internet user, which is why so many jaundiced eyes are being cast on social media IPOs.

We wanted to know what our small business audience thought about Facebook’s impending IPO, so we asked: “As Facebook makes plans to go public, do you think its stock will be a good investment?” Here’s what you told us.

On one end, less than one-in-ten of respondents said, “Facebook stock will do well short and long-term,” while at the other end, 16% believe, “Like other social media stocks, Facebook stock will be a loser.” The big group in the middle, 75%, allowed that “Facebook stock may do well for a year or so, but not long-term.”

Such skepticism isn’t about social media activity itself. Because what individuals and businesses are really doing on these platforms is creating communities, and online communities are here to stay.

But small business owners, like Wall Street, know there’s a difference in projecting the value of a customer and that of a user. One pays you money and the other pays you a visit.

Monetizing a user is not the same as monetizing a customer.

Recently on my radio show, The Small Business Advocate, I talked more about whether Facebook would be a good investment with Gary Moore, former SVP of Investments at Paine Webber and founder of The Financial Seminary. Take a few minutes to listen or download and let us know what you think.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Build community with a website & social media

Here is a question many small business owners ask: “Do we need a social media strategy if we have a website?”

The answer is the same as for why you have an email address, even though you have a phone. It’s not an either/or decision; it’s both/and.

Clearly, your beautiful website is also very handy: cyber address, digital brochure, e-catalog, virtual store, etc. But as versatile as it is, there is one increasingly important capability you need that a website isn’t good at: community building. That’s what social media does.

By my definition, social media is much older and more comprehensive than the popular Johnny-come-latelies, Facebook and Twitter. Your social media strategy includes everything you do to build, connect with and serve customer communities, including: the new stuff, email marketing, customer loyalty programs and, the original social media, face-to-face.

What are these communities? Do you have one?

In the old days – like 1999 – your customer list was just names on an accounts payable report or sales forecast. Today, those customers are part of your business’s community; the rest are prospects who are becoming interested in you. But unlike the passive customer list of old, this community is functioning and has expectations you have to meet, or they will join another community.

At the risk of hurting your feelings, once customers find you, returning to that beautiful website of which you’re so proud will be of decreasing interest to them. But the good news is that anything you have that’s new – product and how-to information, order status, special offerings, etc. – is of increasing interest to customers. They just don’t want to have to come back to get it. More and more, customers are saying to businesses, “I’ve seen what you offer and like it, but I won’t be returning to your website much, because I’m very busy. Why don’t you follow me home?”

This is what customers and prospects mean when they join your community by giving you permission to connect with them and send them stuff by email, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. They just want the new stuff, including updates to your website.

Connect with and serve your customer communities by following them home with all social media resources. That’s how a small business transcends merely being competitive by being relevant.

It’s both/and: Build and serve customer communities with a website and social media.

I’ve talked a lot about building online communities on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Click here to see all my interviews on social media, but first, let me know what you think about building customer communities.

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…




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