“What goes around, comes around” as they say. Interesting how that old saw can play itself out. Last week I attended a workshop on marketing with social media that was presented by The University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center at Darton College.
A hundred years ago, the best marketing tool for most businesses was word of mouth. Some local entrepreneur developed a product and sold one to neighbor or passerby who liked it and told someone else, and a business was launched. Maybe it was a local blacksmith that did a good job shoeing a horse at a reasonable price and the horse owner told his neighbors and business boomed for the blacksmith. Personal testimonies built the reputation of the business person and his products or services and that was the primary means of growing a business.
Fast forward to the 21st. We’ve evolved all sorts of advertising media featuring every conceivable kind of print and electronic advertisement. Some types of marketing tools are on the rise and others seem to be in decline, but all are trying to achieve what the old blacksmith did. Please a customer, meet his needs and having earned his future business, have him take one more step: create another customer. Enter social media like Facebook, Twitter and others.
Actually, pleasing the customer by selling him products that meet his needs at attractive prices is the still the job of the business or service provider. The new opportunity is for the telling it about it, the “Word of Mouth” part to be achieved through a social media like Facebook. The SBDC seminar focused on ways that businesses can use Facebook to tell their story, create customers who will create other customers and hopefully create a “viral effect”; snowball as we used to say.
We’ve discussed in this column how neat it is to keep up with children and grandchildren by regular communication on Facebook and I heartily endorse that, in spite of nagging questions about privacy and security. But, last week’s seminar alerted many participants to the ways that Facebook can be used by businesses, especially as a marketing tool. You just can’t ignore that among Facebook’s 500,000 plus users, there are over 1.5 million businesses that have a fan page, all the way from Fortune Five Hundred companies to Mom and Pop operators.
In summary, Facebook can be a legitimate, effective marketing tool used in conjunction with company Websites and other Blogs as part of most businesses’ overall customer creation strategy. It has to be planned, executed and maintained as with any other marketing approach.
It is the word of mouth part of a business doesn’t replace any of the other basic parts of running an efficient and profitable business. Good products, customer service and other sound parts of your business model are still vital to success.