I live in Asheville, been living here since 1993. I love it here. However, there is something I don’t love. It is the opposition to change. Anytime someone wants to build anything, people come out and fight it tooth and nail. I understand wanting to keep standards for your town….but at the risk of ruining your economy? No, I am not a fan of that. Often people here will fight tall buildings in our downtown area. Yet, they don’t fight urban sprawl. Want to keep the mountains pristine? I would argue that you build up downtown as high as you can and keep the urban sprawl to a minimum. It takes only minutes to see gorgeous views, 15 to find a decent campsite. Urban sprawl is what will ruin those gorgeous views, not a tall building in the downtown area.
But let me get to the heart of what really bugs me. The opposition to seeing Social Media as a successful business tool. Now I have to be fair, Asheville businesses aren’t the only ones. But for sake of local businesses actually seeing this post, I want this to be directed to them. Maybe they will take it to heart. Maybe not.
Alot of people get this look on their face when you mention Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, or any of the other gazillion sites out there. You probably know the look. The look of disgust. That look of “aren’t you older than 13?”. Or my oh so favorite comment escapes their mouth “Twitter is for ego-centrics who think people care about what they say” (yea guess what jerk, people do care what I have to say!). The fact of the matter is, these sites can help build or destroy your business. If I take a trip downtown and a store is having a sale or giving something away, you bet your sweet patootie I am tweeting it. I remember the day that AshevilleLiveCam tweeted about Wendy’s giving away free burgers downtown. I hustled on over and also discovered that if you filled out a survey you got a $5 gift card. SCORE! They got more business from me after that. Why? Because of twitter. When Bojangles gets on twitter and does a giveaway, they get more business. When moms are happy with a product they tried out, it goes on twitter. Word spreads rapidly. The happy people encourage others to go out and get your product. It is your benefit. The same can be said if you piss someone off. The last thing you want is bad customer service. You screw up and it’s everywhere. You mistreat people and you will lose business once they oust you.
Let me take you back to a time in the early years of society. Imagine if you will, Andy Griffith. In that day and age business owners had relationships with their target market. Your grocer knew you. Your barber knew you. Your mechanic knew you. Trust was built. Relationships were built. Business was good. Somewhere along the way we lost the trust, the relationship, and business turned into a stale WalMart-esque bad. Social Media is about bringing back those times of Andy Griffith in a technological age. It’s bringing it back with something we can be comfortable with.
How about those small businesses whom have embraced social media and have made accounts all over? Ahh yes, but you have to actually engage your market. The thing is, alot of businesses don’t use social media the way they should. I recently read an article about Citibank and their report on use of social media in the workplace. Unfortunatley Citibank did not have a positive outlook on social media. But it’s their own fault. Nowhere on their sites is there a way for a person to find them in their various social media outlets. How can they build a relationship? I see this with businesses here in Asheville. They sign up for twitter and then they don’t engage. One pizza place will tweet a dinner special about once every couple of weeks. Posting ads doesn’t help you in these forums. ENGAGING your market, talking with your market about things other than your product…..that is what helps. We have other businesses that have a twitter account and have never tweeted anything. And yet they think social media doesn’t work! Business owners know that what you put into your business you get out of. Same goes for social media.
I hope that some businesses hit up this post and really understand how social media helps. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook fanpages…..these are all very useful (and very inexpensive) tools that help businesses. You just need to work at it! Trust me, we consumers will love you for it.