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Have You Friended Your Customers?

Being customer-centric is key to social success

Deborah Huso

There’s a growing divide between companies that use social media and those that don’t, according to an InSites Consulting survey. “Social media is offering a big opportunity to get closer to customers,” says Steven Van Belleghem, managing partner with InSites. That’s because it allows businesses to see what customers say about their products and services in real time and gives those businesses a chance to respond to concerns or compliments in real time.

The InSites survey showed, however, that 26 percent of American companies don’t use social media at all (the worst laggards being in the financial and pharmaceutical industries). Among the companies using the big four—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube (click to visit SUCCESS on each platform)—many aren’t integrating their social media presence with the rest of their marketing and promotional efforts. That’s a problem because it can mean customers receive mixed messages.

“It’s really not so much about social media as it is about being customer-centric,” Belleghem says. Companies that already integrate Facebook, Twitter and more into their overall marketing and customer service efforts have an edge on competitors, and those forward-focused businesses will build on their current efforts.

No matter what business you’re in, he says it’s crucial to develop a strong presence in social media for marketing, receiving customer feedback and serving customers. He offers these tips:

☞ Invest in training. Make sure your employees know how to use social media properly (pleasantly addressing complaints, supplying helpful information, etc.) and integrate social media content with overall company messaging.

☞ Observe what customers say about you. Then respond. You can start and maintain a two-way conversation with those you serve.

☞ Get top management involved. If the executive level of your company doesn’t support social media efforts, they’ll flop. Get your CEO to participate in the conversation.

Find more social media tips for your business on SUCCESS.com and read the 5 easily overlooked social networking tips.

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