Over the last few years, we have seen a dramatic shift in how customers interact with business. Prior to social networking websites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, a customer could only voice their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their local community of friends and family. Now with the impact of mobile devices and social media, they have a voice that can be heard by millions in real time. This unprecedented sharing of information has a huge impact on businesses in general and, more specifically, impacts demand for products (e.g., hotel rooms, apartment units), thus impacting revenue management and pricing immensely.
Many companies have tremendous fear with this newfound voice of their customers. However, successful businesses see the enormous value that can be gained when they engage their customers socially. They realize that each social engagement is an opportunity to make a customer happy. Let me share with you three easy ways your company can begin to engage with your clients through social media.
- You have unprecedented insight into what matters to your clients. One reason social media sites are so popular is because they mirror our normal social engagements. Think about the conversations you have with your friends every day. These conversations often gravitate towards what you enjoy or are passionate about. Smart companies realize that their clients share this information on social media sites and are willing to take the time to engage them there. Your company should spend time finding out everything they can through these social channels as you engage with present and soon-to-be customers. We have done this at Rainmaker and found it means a great deal to our clients. One example I recall is discovering a client of ours spends a lot of her free time helping rescued horses. Well, I like animals and I thought this was a wonderful thing she was doing. I was genuinely interested in this passion of hers, which spurred (no pun intended) many conversations on Facebook and in person.
- Wow your clients with this information. If you genuinely care about what matters to your customers, you can wow them with this information. A simple question or like when you read about their interests can go a long way. Let me share with you how we took the example above and turned it into a WOW moment. After reading about her non-profit, we made a donation to help with the rescue of horses. Again, I like animals so this was not a difficult thing to do. We did not do this because we expected anything in return, we simply care about what matters to our clients. Recently, I received a call from one of our new customers. During the sales process, he happened to talk with the young lady above to see what kind of company we were. He said her reference about our corporate culture and engagement with our clients was amazing. We can't put a dollar figure on this kind of reference, even though it was never our intent when we donated.
- Encourage your employees to be socially engaged. This could be one of the biggest areas of fear for many companies. What happens if my employees say the wrong thing? Give them simple guidelines but let them be creative and real. You can make simple rules like don't bash our competitors but the rest should be up to them. They should be encouraged to talk about what it is like to be an employee in your company and to engage with your clients. This will create a level of authenticity in your company that is so valuable. If you try to dictate what can be said, then you already lost. This is a platform where they should be themselves.
While listening to and engaging with customers is always the prerogative, there are business benefits from these engagements:
- Gathering intelligence from social media outlets give us insights into what residents/guests and prospects value most in our properties and what they dislike
- Social engagement among residents/guests offers insights about their intent to continue to do business with you (for example, return to your hotel or renew an apartment lease)
- Finally, this social sentiment could be a great lead indicator of demand
Hopefully you heard the simple theme of being genuine when you engage with your clients. One of the worst things you can do is use social media as a platform to spew your ideas or marketing. Furthermore, engaging in social media will not work if you are trying to use it to gain something from your clients. Social media is simply a conversation. Remember, customers like to do business with people they like.