Many businesses are living in the old media world, but other businesses, which already have a social media presence, see customers and markets in an added dimension. So said Dave Friedman, president of the central region of Razorfish, which helps companies build great brands by creating great experiences for customers. I heard him speak recently in Chicago. He's got 4 steps a company can take to move into social media, into that new dimension.
1. Give customers a voice.
Your customers are talking about you. It's either behind your back or to your face. How do you find out what they are saying? He mentioned subscriptions to Neilson's Buzzmetrics and JD Power's Umbria. Another example which I just set up for SCORE is the CompanyBuzz application in Linkedin. But what Friedman really means is to create ways for customers to talk in your space -- on your website, in blogs, maybe in your own social network.
2. Set your content free.
Let customers rate your products, the editorial content on your website, your videos, your ads, everything. Fix items with the lowest ratings, the 1's and 2's. And show ratings, both individual and consolidated, to everyone. One of Friedman's examples was something I had not noticed -- the New York Times encourages readers to add social bookmarks to articles and incorporate the headline and first sentence on blogs and websites. The Times also lists articles most emailed and most blogged.
3. Enable customers to talk to each other.
In his view, 50% of a new media budget should be spent to empower and facilitate conversation between your best customers, your enthusiasts. (Friedman quoted statistics to show that buyers have far more trust in a third party whom they have never met than in any experts the company puts forth.) As an additional benefit, when you enable your customers to market for you, you can also listen and use comments to maintain qualify.
4. Engage customers in conversation.
Solicit customer ideas and feedback on an ongoing basis. Let them tell you how you should fix your products and services, what they need that you do not supply. Then maybe pre-sell this product to them. Friedman's example here was Threadless, which lets potential buyers vote on designs they might like in t shirts and then uses that data to create and presell the popular ones. Dell's Ideastorm page for product feedback was another example.
I know from trying to introduce some of these ideas at SCORE Chicago that they make organizations uncomfortable. Managers resist the idea of having products and services publicly rated, of listening to and even showcasing unfounded criticism, of giving away content they paid to develop. This is a very open way of operating and sharing. But, Friedman says, your customers are already living in the new dimension. You'll loose touch if you don't move some of your marketing resources there too.