I periodically point out to new customers that just having a blog and/or an email newsletter will inconvenience or even exclude a bunch of folks. Different people prefer to receive information in different formats.
By way of analogy, music used to be published on both LPs (these big grooved vinyl disc thingies, for those too young to remember) and CDs. Now music is (mostly) available via CD as well as download (like the iTunes store) and streaming (like last.fm).
The same multi-format concept applies to publishing marketing messages about your company. Obviously, if you limit yourself to handing out printed brochures at your place of business not many people are going to get your messages.
Back to blogs and email: yes, these are fabulous ways to communicate and very convenient for quite a few recipients. However, many customers (and potential customers) have never heard of RSS (a neat way to subscribe to blogs which for some reason a lot of people have never heard of…as I explained to a frequently tweeting client yesterday). Many don’t bother to bookmark blogs, or won’t visit the bookmark. And plenty don’t want to give out their email address, or wouldn’t read an email newsletter if you sent it to them.
But a good number of these folks will joyfully “subscribe” to your messages on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, if you give them the opportunity. That’s where they live, that’s where they are comfortable, and they’ll give you permission to post messages to their streams there. To underline the point: 325 million people are now using Facebook. I have reason to believe that some people use Facebook instead of email, as in, they don’t have email and when they want to communicate online, it’s Facebook or nothing. The added benefit of Facebook and Twitter, of course, is that when people respond to your messages (unlike when they reply to your email or comment on their blog) their social circles may hear about it also.
Whatever hailing frequencies you use, the same basic rules apply: Don’t spam the stream, which is to say, keep the frequency of posts reasonable. And don’t sell-sell-sell unless that’s what people want from you (in other words, if you do nothing but pitch your product, they know in advance that they are subscribing to get notified about discounts, new products, etc.).
The good news for companies on a budget is that a legitimate minimalist approach is available. You can simply update the blog, then send out notifications (intro paragraph plus link to blog post) via email (your email newsletter can really be nothing more an email subscription to your blog), Facebook / LinkedIn updates, and a Twitter tweet (same). Is this ideal? Not really. Does it get most of the job done with minimal effort? Yup.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, for the better funded organizations of the world with the budget to pursue the full ROI of social media, you can give your customers your own dedicated software applications for communicating with you. Today I went to a lunch presentation by a company called Perlego that offers technology for quickly branding your organization’s very own smart phone application, including variants for virtually every type of smart phone (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, etc.). Perlego wants every one of your smart phone wielding customers to carry your company’s application around in their pockets all day, giving them their own personal hotline to your messaging (I envision the US and Soviet Presidents and their “red telephone” hotline to one another). I didn’t see a demo so I don’t know how well Perlego’s applications work, but their concept does illustrate the idea of packaging messages in the format that’s most accessible for your customer.
The bad news for the “send it and forget it” (“SIAFI”) oriented marketing folks out there is that there is a price to be paid for the privilege of having social media as a communications channel. Your company now has to monitor social media for feedback from your customers, then respond when necessary to acknowledge compliments, resolve complaints, etc.
Worse news for the SIAFI crowd is that you can’t get out of your obligation to monitor social media and respond by simply ignoring social media. Your customers (and potential customers) are talking about you whether you are paying attention or not. As of reading this you are now officially on notice that when you aren’t paying attention it’s your bad. (Case in point: I just reached out to a potential customer who is building quite an impressive backlog of complaints on Yelp that they don’t seem to be aware of, yet.)
The good news is that you can easily and inexpensively monitor and respond to your customers using social media. It only takes some time and ongoing attention. So go for it. And let me know if you need any help. I’m always happy to discuss your situation with you even if hiring me isn’t currently one of your budget items. The easiest way to get my attention would be by leaving a comment just below….