Wondering Out Loud

Social is great, but it can’t replace personal

Social media is a great way to engage with your market – we all know that – and an untold number of companies are now taking part. But I’ve been concerned that too many of the younger folk who are growing up in the world of social networking are going to fail miserably when forced to communicate face-to-face rather than Facebook-to-Facebook.

While I still believe there is reason to be concerned, I discovered – actually it was my 12 year old son – two local establishments that employ teens and young adults that are so customer-centric, I was pleasantly shocked by the way these young kids conduct themselves. What hit me hardest, though, is I never expected it because of my own perception of the culture they are immersed in. In this case, as in most, perception is not reality.

Before I elaborate, I need to provide a little background.

My 12 year old son discovered Aggressive Inline Skating (AIL) during summer vacation. If you don’t know what it is, take a few minutes to watch the video. He’s been (ice) skating  and playing hockey for several years already, but when he found AIL he fell in love. He’s not quite to the level of the guys in this video, but he’s having a hell of a good time trying to get there.

After several months of skating at the local indoor skate park, 3rd Lair, in traditional inline skates, mom and I decided to find him a used pair built for the type of skating he’s doing. Knowing nothing about them, I did as much online research as possible and went forth to find a pair. He tried ’em and liked ’em – just like Mikey – then we decided to get an expert opinion. The guy’s at 3rd Lair were the first stop.

They not only took the time to answer all of our questions, they also answered several questions we didn’t think to ask. Just to be clear, there’s was no profit motive at work here as 3rd Lair deals in skateboards, not skates. After giving us as much advice as they could, their last bit was a recommendation that we visit a shop called Pinewski’s.

Pinewski’s deals in skis, skateboards, knee boards, and inline. We brought our used skates to the shop hoping to learn just how good a deal Dad got on them and to find out if they were any good. For the next 30 minutes, a young man named Steve gave us a tutorial on aggressive inline skating and, in the end, we found that Dad, I, did make a good purchase, but that the bearings were a bit worn. He did recommend a replacement bearing, but also said it would be better if the lad spent a few weeks on the skates before taking on the extra speed the bearings would bring him. Here the guy could have made a sale, but recommended something that would, at best, delay us from spending or, at worst, have us buy the bearings from a shop closer to home.

Both young men were doing exactly what we try to do with social media: share our expertise, without selling, knowing that we are building credibility in the market and putting our companies in a position win future sales. I don’t know if either was conscious of the tactics they were using, but I tend to doubt because other experiences tell me it is part of the culture to coach and mentor those who have an interest in skating.

Too often, what is now called social is anything but personal. It’s nice to know there are at least a couple of places where personal comes first.

It gives me confidence that we won’t completely loose the real in favor of the digital.

June 3, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social media and pest control

Ever had a squirrel in your house?
 
Last week my wife called to tell me there were gnaw marks on a one of the windowsills in the living room. I suggest the 2 year old might be working on a molar, but that idea was scuttled when she told me the marks stretched for 2 feet and whatever did it had to be on the job for quite some time. That’s when I knew we had an unwanted visitor in the house. The only question was what type of visitor it was.

My bride – being a traditionalist at heart – went to the yellow pages looking for someone who could help eliminate the problem by whatever means necessary. She found Laughlin’s Pest Control and gave them a call. How the call unfolded is a textbook example of using social media tactics to build credibility and generate new business leads.
 
Raise your hands if you ask, answer, or even visit the discussion areas in LinkedIn. I’ll assume every hand is up. What you find there, is no different than what transpired on the phone between my wife and Laughlin’s Pest Control. She had a question and he took the time ask some questions of his own in an effort to answer hers. In the end he determined the varmint was a squirrel that was looking for a way out. His advice was to open the window and raise the screen to give the squirrel an exit. To entice the critter he suggested peanut butter – smooth, not crunchy – to lure the furry beast out of its hiding place (which I later found to be the smoke ledge in the fireplace). He also put the mother of my children at ease by telling her the squirrel would stay in hiding while people were around. A comforting thought when you have a 6, 4 and 2 year old in the house. The boys, 11 and 14, would have preferred taking it on in a head-to-head battle.

The people at Laughlin’s could have scheduled a service call ($150 for showing up), charged the hourly rate and gotten rid of Rocky themselves. But it would have been a short-term monetary gain at the expense of a potential long-term customer relationship.
 
In less than 15 minutes on the phone, our new friend at Laughlin’s had solved the problem and won a customer for life. I know who I’m calling if the moles return this summer.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | Public Relations, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

   

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