Why Do You Need Social Media?
In the past 5 years, the internet has gone from a place to discover information to a place to share information. This shift has resulted in what is commonly called Internet 2.0. What does Internet 2.0 involve? Everything from being able to comment on articles (like on Collateral), write product reviews on sites like Amazon.com, and being able to network with others via sites like MySpace and FaceBook are included in Internet 2.0. Often times these sites are referred to as "Social Media" because anyone has the ability to publish and share information through these sites. While this might seem irrelevant to you, it is not. As the internet is quickly moving out of the home and office onto our phones, more and more people are turning to the world wide web as a networking source. Instead of asking their co-worker for a suggestion of where to eat later that night, people are turning to their online friends for suggestions and reviews. A good (or bad) review can spread farther faster than it has ever been able to.
What does this mean to you? If people are going online to share information, you want to be a part of that conversation, or at least listening to it. What can you gain from listening? You can hear what people are saying about your industry. You can hear if people have a problem you'd be able to help them solve. And, most importantly, you can hear what people are saying about your company. If they're happy, you can take the time to thank them for their support and potentially use them for a testimonial. If they're unhappy, you can respond to their complaint immediately - excellent customer service and attention might be enough to change their attitude. The easiest way to listen is to be a member of the communities where these conversations are taking place and utilizing a few simple, free tools to keep track of the conversation online.
The first thing is to identify where people are talking on the internet. The simplest answer? Everywhere. The beauty of the internet is that anyone can publish pretty much whatever they want. While this may seem impossible to listen to, Google has a free tool that makes it easy to hear what people are saying about you on the internet - Google Alerts. With Google Alerts, all you have to do is type in what phrases you want Google to keep an eye out for, and they will send you an email when they find that word being used on the internet. Maybe someone used your services to bail a loved one out of jail and blogged a positive review. If you're not using Google Alerts, you may never know.
Another way to stay in tune with what people are saying about you is to monitor social networking sites. Though Yelp is primarily known for people ranking restaurants, salons, stores and the like, they also have bail agencies listed on their site available for review. Go to Yelp.com to see if your business is listed, the information is correct and to register as an owner. Be sure to check your Yelp page at least once a week to monitor what people are saying about you. Another important website to monitor is Twitter. With everyone from Oprah to Shaq on Twitter, it is growing at a phenomenal rate. Twitter is a "microblogging" site which allows people to only write 140 character messages at a time. Many people (including lawyers) use Twitter from their smartphones for up to the minute thoughts. Using a free service like TweetBeep, which is basically Google Alerts for Twitter, allows you to see if anyone on Twitter needs a bail agent in your area or is talking about your company without having to constantly check Twitter.
What happens if you don't listen to what people are saying? If you don't listen to what people are saying, you have no way to respond to negative feedback, and you allow other people to control your reputation. No matter how much time and money you have spent cultivating your company image, one bad experience by a person respected on online communities can severely damage your brand. Using the free, simple tools highlighted in this article, you can effectively listen and protect your brand with very little effort. Once you are listening to the conversation, what should you do next? Look for Part 2 of this article in the next edition of The Bail Report where we discuss various ways to participate in Internet 2.0 communities.