Several years ago, "transparency" was the buzz-word in terms of business and leadership.
Leaders were advised to be more personal, direct and honest with employees and customers alike. The internet made it possible for businesses to show a “picture” of themselves to the world by way of their corporate website. Most sites, once published, changed only occasionally or once every couple of years when someone decided that it was outdated, remembered to update it in accordance with sales goals or needed to change its "look" after a branding exercise.
Then along came the corporate blog which enabled specific corporate leaders (often the CEO) to take a more personal, honest and direct approach to corporate communications. But even the blog had its limits; most companies were able to keep a pretty tight rein on who had the ability to speak on their behalf. They wrote strict guidelines for content. They agonized over the writing, proofing and revising of articles—a process that could take days or even weeks to complete. Conversations were narrow and focused. The company could control the visibility of customer responses. They could sweep problems under the rug or put a spin on them. They could address legitimate customer interests or they could write articles about what they believed should be important to the customer (whether or not it was).
And then along came social media (notably, innovative sites like MySpace, dating sites and the like). These sites, initially designed to help people connect with one another, also gave people the ability to say anything they wanted about any individual, or any company, about which they wanted to expound. And expound they did!
Facebook is the ultimate transparency tool for your business—whether you want to participate or not.
Your business needs to be present on Facebook (and so do you, as the leader of your business) in order to engage with customers, prospects and your greater community. Talk about the story of your business. Talk about the unique blend of individuals who comprise your workforce and the strengths and abilities they bring to the table. Talk about the good things your company does for your employees, customers and the community. Tell people about what is different-and-better about your business than the competition, a point of difference that had better be important to your customers and prospects!
Talk about your products and services from the standpoint of how they benefit your customers (not your bottom line). Use Facebook to gauge customer and prospect interests. Invite your customers to guide conversations. Solicit customer reviews and raves. Address any shortcomings or problems and talk about what you have done to solve problems and improve the customer experience.
You need to do all of these things not just because it's good marketing strategy—which it is—but for other reasons, too. One, your customers are there and two, so are your competitors!
If you are not participating in the conversations that are going on about your business, industry and community on Facebook, you are leaving your business out of the loop. By not participating, you are leaving what is said about your business, your employees, and maybe even about you, up to the competition. You are leaving customers in the lurch who may be asking questions about problems you can solve or who may be venting after an unusually poor experience with your business or with one of your products.
There are many good reasons for you to be present on Facebook, and no good reasons not to – what are you waiting for?
Elizabeth Kraus - www.12monthsofmarketing.net
Author, 365 Days of Marketing - available on amazon.com [click here]
Need more convincing? Anne Fisher of crainsnewyork.com reports that Facebook fans of small businesses visit those businesses 36% more than other customers and spend 33% more than other customers! Read [Why You Shouldn't Ignore Facebook] here