It’s a Scary (Social Media) World Out There! Part 3: What Social Media Knows About You (For Customers)

Social Media can  be a double edged sword, in terms of privacy.  On one end, there have been numerous accounts of crime that originates from what a victim posts on their Facebook Timeline or what they Tweet – it can be as innocent as telling everyone that you’re going on vacation for a week, which could result in home burglary.  But on the other end, your information could help businesses get the goods that you’re asking for, and they can better understand today’s trends.  But first of all, let’s back up and see what kind of information people put (intentionally or unintentionally) on their social media accounts, and how their data is used by others.

Have you ever realized that the ads in the corner on your Facebook page feature that new shirt you’ve been dying to get?  It’s not a coincidence – the sites you visit gather information about you.  What type of information?  Basically everything a stranger in turn would need to know to approach you.  The basics -what’s your name, occupation, where you live, phone, email- as well as which ads you click, what time and days are you on certain sites, what your search queries are.  Yep, that’s a lot of information that was given and can be found with little effort.

That’s why privacy has been such an issue with social media.  This is especially true with younger generations using social media, as cyber-bullying and online conversations have exploded onto the scene with the internet.  Parents no longer worry about stranger danger as much as they worry about their children talking to strangers online (which is so easy, since privacy controls aren’t being used.)  Our private lives are becoming much less private nowadays, and it’s partially our fault.

As a customer, you want to protect yourself as much as you can to avoid situations like home burglary.  Most Facebook users don’t make use of the privacy controls – if your posts aren’t private, don’t count on Uncle Tim as the only one who will see the picture of the new car you got.  Being careful about what you post and where you post, and your privacy settings, is an easy way for consumers to withhold information on their end.

What do you think?  Should social media security be tighter?


Customer Engagement

Being on social media isn’t hard, but being on social media is (haha, confusing? read on, my friend.)  Just having Facebook and Twitter and other outlets isn’t enough – your brand has to be actively seeking to enter into conversations with your customers every day. It’s important to not only answer feedback in a timely manner, but to also be the one asking for feedback. When a company asks customers for their opinions, it’s telling consumers that the business cares and wants to improve. Engaging with customers is one of the major steps that companies who are succeeding in social media use.

You be first

Don’t wait for others to ask or post.  Make the initial move to start the conversation with your followers.  Create a post that’s interesting but that also deals with a problem.  Do research before you post so you can be well informed about your audience and their needs, your market conditions, your competitors, and your own product.  Once you’ve done your research, your content will look more appealing and up to date with what consumers want.

You be second

After you’ve scoped out the landscape and placed yourself in various situations, you have to realize that consumers will take advantage of social media to tell you how you’re doing.  Bottom line: social media makes it easier for people to complain.  So you should take the chance to use social media to address those complaints.  Responding slowly or not responding at all can be a major turn-off for consumers.  Take the time to answer your followers’ questions, and even looking up answers or asking co-workers if you’re stumped by the question.  Also, customers hate it most when they get the run-around.  Just answer their question!  No need to give them a generic, automated answer, because that’s also a huge turn-off.  If you don’t know the answer, admit it (it’s okay to make mistakes) but again, go above and beyond to help the customer find the answer.

Social Media and Dining

Social media has made some major changes to the dining experience.  Going to a restaurant doesn’t just entail eating the food and telling your waitress that the service was good and the food was delicious – casual eaters include social media into every aspect of the dining experience that they can.  They’re blogging/posting/tweeting/instagramming before, during, and after the whole ordeal.  The process is actually really simple – if you’re a restaurant scratching your head about all this social media mumbo jumbo, here’s a quick break down of how people dine nowadays:

Before – Remember the days when we had to rely on food connoisseurs to tell us if a restaurant was worth taking a trip to (if you can’t even remember those days, think of Anton Ego from Disney’s Ratatouille).  Well, the days of flipping through our favorite newspaper for our favorite food critic’s column have passed!  Instead of getting opinions from those with a well know foodie reputation (and those with really developed taste buds), the average consumer flips through Yelp reviews written by other average consumers.  Consumers can also see if how many likes their restaurant in question have gotten on Facebook (it’s really simple math – the more likes, the better the restaurant must be) or look for restaurant hashtags.  It’s restaurants made for the people, reviewed by the people.

During – Don’t give your customers a weird look if they’re taking pictures of their food (and themselves) in between bites.  Pictures make the experience memorable (whether it’s bad or good memories is up to your cooks and servers.)  They’re not only spreading your restaurant name by telling their friends about their experience, but they’re potentially helping people they don’t know make the decision to come to your diner.  Being able to snap pictures and tweet and post during dinner also increases the number of mentions your restaurant gets.  Forgetful customers don’t have to worry about remembering how their experience went the next day – internet and social media is in real-time.

After – People still meditate on their dining experience, but not like how a food critic thoughtfully processes his experience (again, think of Anton Ego’s deep meditation scene near the end of Ratatouille).  There are A LOT of blogs out there dedicated to food, restaurants, and dining.  Food bloggers give others a detailed post about their restaurant experience and encourage others to try it out (and of course, if their experience was good, they’ll come back too!)

Why Social Media Doesn’t Work

Courtesy of Flickr: Sybren A. Stüvel

We think social media is great. A lot of other people do too. So far we’ve been focused on helping those who are interested in putting effort into social media for their brand. So what about the people who are against (and I mean fiercely against) using social media for their business? We think there are 3 different camps with 3 different views on why social media isn’t working for their company. If you identify yourself as any one of these, keep reading! You never know when you’ll find a new piece of information!

The Haters

These people are really against social media.  They swear they’ll never use it, and grumble and mumble when other people talk about it.  Why does my business need social media – we’re doing perfectly fine with our traditional methods of advertising and managing.  Why should I post about the latest company happenings?  Why would consumers want to follow me anyways?

No offense, but they sound like my grandma.  Stuck in the past, not up-to-date with technology.  Times have changed, and people (especially business people) need to realize that social media has become the new mode of communication.

But they would be surprised to see how many potential relationships they’re letting fly by.  Did you know there are many users on social media that are all potential customers? (check out this cool infographic with all the stats)  Traditional methods of reaching out to the consumer isn’t enough – social media is in real-time, and it’s important nowadays to get information to your customers (who are using online media to research who they’ll buy products from) and to do so quickly, time-efficiently, and effectively.

The Fence-Sitters

This group of people has a love-hate relationship with social media.  These businesses use social media for their brands, but don’t really believe that it can do any magic.  They might be using Facebook and Twitter for their brands because everyone else is, but deep down inside, they don’t believe social media efforts are that important (or at least one of the most important factors to communicating with customers.)  So they put limitations on their social media management employees.  You can only do this much with social media.  Interacting with customers is for business-only purposes.

Really?  Do these businesses really want to set these rigid rules?  What will their customers think of them?

No consumer wants to see a business that “is only a business.”  We’ve said this a thousand times, but customers want to see that businesses have feelings too.  Social media is a great way for brands to show their fun side, and inform their followers.  It’s taking more than smarts for businesses to succeed nowadays – creativity and uniqueness are really important to catch the consumers’ eyes.

The Over-enthusiasts

We hear it all the time.  I devote myself to social media – I’m on all the platforms, I update my followers often.  I’ve got a great social media management tool…and I sat and waited…and nothing happened.

Well, what’d you expect?  Social media isn’t some fairy dust you sprinkle over your business and you become popular the next day!  It’s a lot more work than that!

The problem is two-fold.  Did you actually engage with customers, or did you just establish your presence on the social media networks?  If you did attempt to communicate with customers, are you posting and creating interesting content?  Most businesses get stumped at this step – they throw information at consumers and expect an increase in followers.  A lot of companies have big social media teams to make sure their brands get it right.  But you don’t need a huge team to be successful; take a look at our previous post to get some easy, helpful tips on how to garner more publicity.

For those of you that read this article and are ready to dismiss it…DON’T.  Take a stab at social media today and keep trying – the web holds a wealth of information that you cannot afford to miss out on.

Interview: Why Isn’t Social Media Taught in Business 101?

We had a chance this week to pull aside one of our interns and ask her a few questions about the internet and social media, and to get a fresh outlook on online networking for businesses.  We were surprised to hear some of Stephanie’s answers:

Social Defender: Thanks for taking some of your time for this interview.

Stephanie: No problem, it’s been a fun experience as well as a learning one so far, and I’m glad I get the chance to share about it.

SD: First question, you’re a young, college kid – how does social media play a part in your and your peers’ lives?

S: It’s SO important for us!  Everyone’s on Facebook and Twitter on campus – we wake up, check our Facebook, we get back from class and send out a tweet (some of us are even on social media in class!), and before we go to sleep, we have to get our friends’ updates.  It’s pretty bad actually.  I know a lot of college kids who have to deactivate their accounts or ask a friend to change their password for a while so they can study.

SD: So you would say social media is an important mode of communication for your age group?

S: Yes, definitely.

SD: Then what about businesses?  Do they need social media to communicate?

S: Of course – businesses are made up of people too, so it makes sense that they engage with their customers through online media.

SD: Tell us about the topic of social media in your classes…you’re a business major, right?  Social media had to have come up in your business classes, correct?

S:  Yes, I am a business major, but social media never came up in any of my “business 101” courses.  I don’t know if professors don’t think social media can’t play a part in the business-sphere, but even at my university, which I hate to brag but is one of the top universities in the US, professors barely mentioned online networking.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t taken upper division classes since I’m still an underclassmen, but social media is so important, it should at least be mentioned in the intro courses!

SD:  You’re our marketing intern here at Social Defender.  Tell us about your first experience when you started working with our company.

S: Well, I knew about the marketing aspects of my job, but I had no idea that businesses use social media!  Before this job, when I imagined social media, I thought of it as Farmville (which was really popular when I first got Facebook) and as a way to connect with your friends who went to different colleges.  I am honestly really grateful that I’m learning all of this – now I can throw around terms such as SEO and social media ROI and sound really smart in class (laughs).

SD: So you think that this is a problem, that your peers aren’t as updated on the latest business tactics as you are?

S: Of course I am – college kids are the next entrepreneurs.  I’m glad I have the experience and upper hand now, but kids should take the information they learn in college and apply it to their jobs once they enter the job market – that’s what an education is for!  So if graduates don’t have this background or don’t figure it out by the time they enter the job market, they’ll be at a big disadvantage in our competitive world.

SD:  Thanks so much for your input, Stephanie.  And thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

S: No problem, my pleasure.

And there you have it.  Why aren’t colleges (and even high schools!) teaching kids about social media?  We think social media is more than a fad – it makes sense that communication follows our innovations and new technology.  Businesses thrive on communication – so why aren’t our future entrepreneurs learning about the newest, most effective way to engage with customers?

Tell us what you think – should schools teach social media management?  We’d love to hear your feedback!