It’s heartening and social media communities of customers

Work has been busy for the past month or so. I haven’t even considered adding to this blog in that time. Yet today I logged in, feeling the urge to say something and I notice that even in my ‘absence’ people having been accessing and reading blogs. This is so heartening and encouraging. Thank you, whoever these anonymous readers are, I am grateful and I hope that which I have written about has been both entertaining and useful.

What I had on my mind was the potential power of online or social media communities. I’m not talking about Facebook or Twitter exclusively, though along with LinkdIn they are the main channels for online communities at present; not doubt there will be others in future.

My thoughts are about how business operators or managers can use these networks to conduct business – even close a deal. Is it possible to build an online community of people specifically interested in what is offered by your business? What would attract them to monitor your online space – in search of something special? Might we need to move beyond talking about what we have for breakfast (I have never done that) to actually offering our customers something that they can use?

I follow a handful of healthcare blogs and facebooks. Yet for most part, with some noticable exceptions they are bland. Yet as a healthcare consumer I crave for knowledge and information. It’s nice to know about the staff party and to see piccies of a new building, however I would rather have some information on good primary health care. Something of actual value to me.

Many nonprofits have social media space and often they have a large group of followers. How much are those followers worth to you as donors or volunteers or even future employees? What do you offer them that encourages them to be a part of you community and actually contribute to the success of your organisation? What might happen if you were to offer them a special fundraising offer – which they in turn could offer to their friends in return for becoming a VSD (very special donor)

According to Nielson, almost 80% of Australians access Facebook on a regular basis, with Twitter and other key social media also growing in usage. If we extropolate that out to 80% of any given population (please don’t argue with me over the extropolation, I’m not pretending this is an exact science) – and let’s say there are 100,000 people surrounding your business, that means there are potentially 80,000 people that could, if you do it right, read your message within social media space appropriate to them. You might even tailor the message to different demographics. What’s perhaps more important is that those 80,000 potential customers, each have a bunch of people following them online. Now I know some of you are thinking this is an exaggerated example; or maybe it isn’t?

Each business has their own database of existing customers. How many of them either ask a customer for their social media page, or blog, or website, or even their email? How many invite, or entice their existing customers to visit their business’s social media space? How many proactively seek to link up to social media of their customrs? What if a medical centre were to set up a social media space that provided customers with basic healthcare advice from an expert, advised when to go in for a flu shot and maybe even teamed up with their favourite pharmacist to offer an incentive on medicinals? All of this can be driven by any employee with access to social media. What are the costs/benefits on that activity?

I sense many organisations are focused on trying to control access to or use of social media in a workplace. As I have stated in the past, this finger-in-the-dyke type activity is nothing more than neanderthal breast beating and acheives absolutely nothing other than egoistic self proclamation. Sure have guidelines in place to guide use of social media, but instead of trying to stop usage; instead learn how to use social media to the advantage of both the organisation and the customers. Social media ain’t going to go away. We are moving past the ‘social’ part of this medium and beginning to look at a community of customers.

Those are my thoughts for the day
John Coxon


About John Coxon

Principal consultant for John Coxon & Associates, a management consultancy working with boards and management teams in healthcare, aged care and not for profit organisations to develop effective strategic planning processes and social enterprise business plans
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