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Facebook The era of ‘glass houses’ and the ‘transparent generation’ have a lot of people nuts. If you grew up in my era this is how it went: If your sister drank it was a family secret and you did your best to keep it away from your friends or even your cousins. Life was all about secrets. Today the same scenario if done properly could land you a television script, a movie part or a spot on Oprah. The least would be a video uploaded to YouTube, an interview with your drunken sister, a book deal or at least a blog and a minute of fame somewhere. It’s no wonder the over-50 crowd can’t get a handle onthis and are wondering why?

According to a recent survey of execs from 100 companies of varying sizes, 78% of respondents said their companies were using social media — but just 41% said they had a strategic plan. Four out of ten active Facebook users say the site is a good way to get information about companies and products. It seems like every business is on Facebook except your business. Does this help you know what they’re doing?

It's alarming but not terribly surprising that half the companies using social media are basically flying without a parachute. This is not where you want to be in the new land of ‘transparency.’

We’ve seen it all or at least most of it. Someone can Google your name, take an aerial photo of your home or find out your social medial standings by downloading Xobni. Xobni is an Outlook plug-in that helps you search, organize your inbox and categorize your emails. It’s pretty amazing and pretty intrusive. Customers have access to complaints.com, ripoffreport.com and pissedoffconsumer.com to name a couple; all these sites are set up to let consumers vent.

As a person you can be as private as you like, as a business it’s more challenging. Prior to the Internet, consumers had no place to go other then the Better Business Bureau, who was kind enough to call you and let you know you had a complaint. If you’re really a celebrity or have annoyed enough people the complaint will be Twittered away and you may be the last to know. Let’s face it, the consumers are in charge and the best thing you can do is manage your online presence. Remember the story about your sister?

  • Rule number one, shut up and listen. Don’t make any excuses even if you’re right. Customers aren’t always right but if you want to keep them, you will have to make them right. Sometimes if the comment is online a happy customer will come to your defense. Don’t wait too long; you will have to take it on.
  • Become a super-sleuth and investigate your business. Know what consumers are saying about your business and where they’re saying it. Make a point to regularly monitor comments about your business. This includes Facebook and other social media haunts. This is one of the reasons you need a Facebook page. According to Trendwatching.com, Facebook is nearing 500 million users. The average user has 130 friends, spends 55 minutes a day on the site and receives three ‘event invitations’ to real-life gatherings every month. Foursquare allows users to explore their neighborhoods and get rewarded for doing so. This also means an unhappy customer can immediately trash your business.
  • Handle the problem immediately. By failing to respond immediately to a serious problem you lose all control of the story. You have got to fill the vacuum of ‘what happened’ before the press or your customers do. Remember the Tiger Woods nonsense.
  • Get your happy customers to sing your praises online. Before it hits the fan, and maybe it never will, collect testimonials, videos of ecstatic customers or audio interviews of delighted customers. Upload these to your blog, Facebook or have them plug you on Twitter.
  • Have good content on your blog. Good content and useful information on your blog will help connect you to your customers. Someone with great information can’t be all bad.
  • Monitor your employee behavior on line. The NFL and colleges monitor their athletes' Facebook pages. Set some employee guidelines for online behavior. Anything you post on Facebook can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Where did I hear that before?

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