Social Business: A Customer Experience Time MachineBy Laura Petrolino

I always like to compare the opportunities social media allows businesses today to what it might have been like to do business decades ago.

By allowing for familiarity and intimacy with your customers (and them with you), being a social business provides for a consumer connection that would be otherwise be unheard of in a vast global economy.

So, let’s take a moment to step inside the PetroPower time machine and see how business was done back in the “good ol’ days”…

Zoop, zoom, zing, zaaat!

(This is what I imagine time travel sounds like.)

You step into your local grocery store where the cashier, Timmy, greets you by name. The owner of the store comes out, shakes your hand, inquires about the family, and reminds you that your favorite brand of peas are on sale this week.

While shopping, you run into Larry, your accountant, who invites you to play tennis later in the week and comments on the local high school football team’s big win.

You knew the owners of most of the businesses you solicited and, in most cases, the rest of the employees that worked there. And you didn’t just know them by name – you knew who they were as people.

That familiarity led to trust because you weren’t doing business with a nameless, faceless brand – you were doing it with other human beings.

Social Business Provides Intimacy

As our society grew and businesses expanded with it, that intimacy and associated sense of trust disappeared.

This is part of the reason why social media’s entry into the space was such a game changer. Suddenly, organizations (who use it correctly) are able to provide intimacy again.

They are able to provide it in a way that makes sense in our present day business climate, through a scalable digital package.

This is part of the reason we almost always encourage our clients to embrace the intimate nature of social media in their strategies. This helps their customers learn more about them, not just in relation to their business, but as real, live people.

There is often automatic pushback when the recommendation is made, however.

  • “They don’t want to know about me.”
  • “Why would they care about our team?”
  • “Is that not self-serving? Egotistical? Off topic?”

Connection Builds Consumer Relationships

The fact is your consumer does care. They do want to know about the people who work there.

What makes us human is our connection to one another, and that connection is formed through our similarities, differences, backgrounds, experiences, and the way we encounter the world. It is through these things that bonds form.

These bonds go beyond customer/vendor to start developing relationships, which in turn, creates loyal customers, brand ambassadors, and an affinity which surpasses that of simply liking a product or service.

One could even say this type of intimacy is so important it should be seen as an inseparable part of your brand, operations, and customer service.

A Case Study

Recently, a client of ours sent an email to their client list, which highlighted one of their team members. It discussed some of his interests and activities outside of work. This email was really well done. It gave a great snapshot into his life and what he was passionate about.

Almost instantly, they started receiving emails and phone calls in response. Their clients were excited to finally be able to put both a face and a person to the man they talked to so often on the phone and had worked with (in many cases) for years.

This employee is very active in dog rescue, and many of the email recipients not only bonded with him through their mutual interests, but also introduced him to other people they thought might have similar interests.

The story was shared and new people were introduced to the company as a result.

Not only that, but this opportunity allowed the organization the ability to learn more about their clients as well – what they like, what they don’t like, and what they’re passionate about.

This mutual give and take is priceless and uncommon in the customer relationship.

The open rate of the email was one of the highest they’ve had, and the measurable results quite impressive.

A personal connection leads to a relationship, which then leads to trust.

Kinship Equals Purchase

Many of us are probably familiar with the famous quote from Jay Baer,

Social media creates kinship between companies and customers, and kinship equals purchase intent.

The concept of kinship is such an important one in our world today, both on a professional and a personal level. We are bombarded by superficial relationships, messages, and sales pitches daily. By providing our consumers the ability to authentically connect with us and create that sense of kinship, we are able to differentiate ourselves from the crowd, build relationships that last, and, in the end, support the bottom line.

What have been the most effective ways you’ve found to become a social business and help your consumer learn more about you?

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

View all posts by Laura Petrolino