Everyone is talking about social interaction and how it can drive your business–both online and offline. The question of whether or not to engage B2B ecommerce customers in an online social forum tends to bring up pretty strong opinions for both sides of the argument.
I highly recommend that you interact socially with your B2B customers online unless you meet one of the following six criteria:
- You don’t care what your customers think. What do your customers know about your product, how it functions, or how it could be better anyway? I mean, they only use the product–you actually created it. What could they possibly tell you that you didn’t already know? DANGER: Your customers experience your products in a way that you never will simply because you created them. Much like having someone else proofread your writing, outsiders are more likely to “catch” something that your mind will just naturally skim over.
- Your product is perfect just the way it is. Enough said. (Really? Can you really say this?) DANGER: The truth is that there are always good reasons to review and improve your product. And who better to ask than the people who use your products on a daily basis? Social media interaction encourages the type of sharing you might miss out on otherwise.
- You aren’t worried about your online reputation. As long as you don’t engage with your customers in social media, they can’t say anything bad about you, right? DANGER: If only this were true! Refusing to engage with your customers via social networks doesn’t shield you from their opinions–positive or negative. Engaging with them allows you leverage the positive comments and diffuse the negative ones before they get out of hand.
- You’re terrified that someone might say something negative about you or your product. The flip-side to reason #3, the idea of having someone even think about putting something negative about you online keeps you from engaging. DANGER: Whether you choose to participate in social media or not, you always run the risk of having someone say something less than flattering about you or your products. The only way to ensure that you are ready to address any negative feedback is to actively engage with your audience and address their concerns quickly and professionally. In fact, proactively addressing an online complaint and solving the problem can turn a problem customer into your biggest advocate, as well as leave a lasting demonstration of your willingness to make things right.
- It’s YOUR brand and no one can change improve your brand strategy besides you. You’re going to tell your customers all about your products and not let them get a word in edgewise. DANGER: The days of creating your corporate brand and feeding it to your customers are over. The reality is that social interactions are actively creating and even changing your brand in a very dynamic way every day. Not being part of the discussion via social interaction means that you have very little say about the online life of your online brand.
- You aren’t listening anyway. You heard you needed a social media outlet and while it’s great that your customers are sharing unbiased and unsolicited feedback about your products and online experience, you aren’t really paying attention to what they are saying. And even if you were, you probably wouldn’t do anything about it anyway. DANGER: There’s nothing worse than asking for a customer’s feedback only to ignore it. Repeatedly. Customers are smarter than you think and will quickly learn to dismiss your brand and your products if they feel your solicitations for feedback aren’t authentic.