creativity, social media marketing, marketing, social media

The Inspiration

A few weeks ago I read a great story about a coffee house in Houston that uses social media marketing (SMM) to personalize customer service in order to compete with larger franchises. The owner of the coffee house received a direct message via Twitter from a regular customer saying he was in a hurry and could he pick up a breakfast burrito as he drove by? The owner Tweeted back “What do you want on it?” Sounds pretty convenient to me.

Why Is This Story Relevant?

In a previous blog post, “Twitter Demystified”, I wrote about the in’s and out’s of marketing on Twitter. The coffee house story is a terrific example of one of the ideas discussed in that previous blog post.  The idea  is that businesses need to listen to customers and respond to their needs. In this case through social media platforms. In a market dominated by Starbucks and other large international corporations, it is increasingly difficult for small local businesses to compete with the sort of brand recognition national chains have. The story mentioned above demonstrates the importance of not only plugging in to social media marketing, but using it creatively to get a leg up on the competition.

If you clicked on the link above to read the full story of Coffee Groundz’ success, there are two quick things to note before reading on:  

  • First, remember that Coffee Groundz is taking orders by direct messages on Twitter, not through their news feed. If you choose to use Twitter in this manner, direct messages will allow you to be notified when a customer sends an order without your news feed getting out of control; and
  • Second, it’s essential to have links to your company’s social media profiles on your main website like Coffee Groundz demonstrates. These links should be prominent and link directly to your profiles on the social media sites you or your company may use. If customers can’t find your page easily, they probably won’t spend time looking for it. Below is a screenshot of Coffee Groundz' website which provides a good example of social media site links.

Above the fold, links, social media

What Makes This Guy So Smart?

Getting back to the idea of coming up with a creative social media marketing strategy, what Coffee Groundz’ owner did was recognize that he could provide a service that national chain cannot. He could respond directly to his loyal customers to give them what they requested and keep them coming back. By taking the time to respond to customers on Twitter and providing a customized service to them, the Coffee Groundz’ owner is creating a sense of personalization. Many large chains cannot provide this type of service because they simply would have too many orders to keep up with. For those who appreciate the human interaction as opposed to the Starbucks drive-through, this strategy can pay off hugely for a local business. 

Getting creative and responding to customers does not have to take up much time at all. Posting that "can’t be missed" daily deal may be enough to get customers in the door. Just remember that once you gain customers you want to keep them coming back so once you get started on Twitter or another site it’s important to maintain your presence. This includes actually reading comments and Tweets customers have posted so you can effectively respond to the comments, suggestions and requests. Beyond these basic steps and tips, it is extremely important to differentiate your market segments or your customer base and to listen  to your customers.

Thinking Strategically

nteracting, Listening, Social Media, Customers, Clients, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook

Thinking about the people that follow a business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook, it’s important to consider who those followers are and how to best get them involved and listening so they feel appreciated. Small local businesses would do well to target locals who can potentially become customers. Does your business providing a service, such as serving a breakfast burrito to a customer who is running late for work, that requires the customer be “on-site”? Then targeting people online who are 100 miles away is not going to provide much return on your time investment on the various social media platforms that exist. 

Listen, And Then Be Pro-Active

Differentiating your market by location is just one of many strategies that businesses like Coffee Groundz can implement to be competitive. Also think about how to differentiate customers by individual needs. It may seem like a lot of work to respond to each customer, but honestly this may even be accomplished by providing excellent customer service and really making the customer feel welcome and valued at your business. It may seem silly, but there are plenty of businesses where customers do not go back because the person they interacted with did not listen and their latte ended up being made with 2% milk instead of skim milk. Silly and somewhat sad, but so true. 

Listening is essential to social media (personal, interpersonal, electronic, and in all other forms of listening). If a customer requests that your coffee shop have chocolate chip scones the next day when they come in for their morning cup of coffee, don’t respond to them saying you would be happy to make chocolate chip if you don’t actually plan on it. Again, this probably sounds silly, but customers develop attachments to products. If that customer comes in and there are raspberry scones sitting on the counter instead of chocolate chip as promised, they are going to be seriously disappointed—particularly if you had chocolate chips sitting in the kitchen so it would have been easy enough to make a loyal customer very happy.

A Final Thought

Social media marketing is not all about self-promotion (another idea mentioned in our "Twitter Demystified” blog post). It may be tempting to use social media solely to promote your business but that eliminates the personalization aspect that can be so effective for reaching current customers and potential customers. Self-promotion in small doses is fine, but remember to create a dialogue with the customers to ensure they know they’re extra special.