By Julian Hall, director and co-founder of PureOnlineGenius.
We’re living slap bang in the day and time where ‘telling a friend’ with the click of a mouse rules – it just does…
I mean, who would dream about buying a washing machine, booking a hotel or downloading an album on iTunes without reading the reviews first? Exactly…
Our tweets, status updates and tagging have made us all the “citizen journalist” of our personal lives and those of others. But what does this mean for the small business owner and the “just about keeping up with it all” medium to large sized companies out there?
Jon Zilber first used this expression in 1991 in MacUser magazine: “You really need to look beyond the mice to decide which product is best for you. And although we sometimes like to feel that we’re the last word on the subject, we encourage you to check out other sources of information about the products you're interested in; seek out word of mouth to complement word of mouse.”
Since then the expression “word of mouse” has become at least as important as word of mouth. Six years later Steven Levy wrote in Newsweek: “The history of the Internet so far has shown that cyberspace is a bottom-up phenomenon. Trends are passed along by word of mouse — not passed down from summits.”
Ah the summits of old who used to wield their mighty marketing plans and advertising campaigns from ivory towers. I mean, if we didn’t like something, a product, service, whatever – we we’re told ‘write into our complaints department” (like that was going to fix anything). Nowadays good ole BT have http://twitter.com/btcare - a bold move methinks, one to be applauded.
But be careful, when Habitat UK decided to jump on the Twitter bandwagon in June they spotted what they thought would be a great way of appearing in popular search – by adding #hashtags at the beginning of their Tweets…that had absolutely nothing to do with them! Even inserting keywords linked to the current state of unrest in Iran? Right then…
What was @HabitatUKs response when they were found out? (Set your face to shock) They deleted the offending Tweets and released a statement blaming an intern a few days later. Poor intern…Ouch.
“The hashtags were uploaded without Habitat’s authorisation by an overenthusiastic intern who did not fully understand the ramifications of his actions,” a spokesman said.
These “social” platforms allow your potential customers to get to you know and for you to get to know your customers. Each month billions of people visit social media websites so they’re a great place to setup shop.
A good example of a small business doing very well on Twitter is Woot.com. They are known to have one of the 100 most-followed accounts on Twitter, with over 1.6M followers. Woot offers one product per day until its stock of that item is sold out or the product is replaced at midnight. Think about how you can tweak your business model to appeal to the fast moving, friendly nature of social media.
Are you nervous by the ‘word of mouse’ bottom up phenomenon yet? You should be! (Only kidding) Because in all honesty (being the keyword here) a lot of companies big and small are worried about the exposure they’ll receive warts and all by getting involved with social media. The difficulty is that people who love you or hate you will be talking about you anyway, so it’s better to be a part of the conversation or better still - facilitate that conversation into a place of customer care – not customer scare!
Be brave, be social but above all be honest!
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