19 April 2011

How is Social Media like a Farmer's Market: Pt. 1

It builds relationships!

Business used to be done with people you knew. They lived in your neighbourhood or town or you were related to them somehow. Then things started getting bigger and moving faster and billboards went up. Ads went on TV and radio and relationships started getting more shallow.

I grew up knowing my milkman by name. He worked for the dairy that was owned by friends of my grandparents. They were also friends with the president of the bank and a local builder and . . . .

In another town, my other grandfather's business appointments were mostly scheduled in the evenings on his front porch as he sat drinking iced tea and towns people wandered past. Everyone knew who needed what done and who was able and available to do it. Surplus from the gardens was swapped and a sparky would trade a wiring job for a bit of plumbing.

The bank was owned locally.

Fast forward to today

We often don't even know the names of the people behind the counters of our bank, pharmacy, hardware store . . . . or do you? Do you know their names?

As our towns and cities become bigger and busier, how do we maintain community?
How do we connect with those we pass each day?

I've heard stories of regulars on buses and trains talking with each other; solving problems and sharing tips on books, movies and such. How did that get started? Someone with a relational IQ probably initiated it and it caught on. I think one such community started when one of the regulars became very ill and the others realised that they missed her, that each of them were mortal and life was too short to ignore people they saw everyday.

How do you build community either for yourself or for your business?

Social media, in all it's various forms, is community. It's a long way from grandpa's front porch, but it provides connections between people that often turn in to actual friendships.

Businesses can use Facebook or Twitter, just to name two options, to connect with their customers or suppliers in a way that one-on-one phone calls or just don't anymore.

Customers, or potential customers, can ask questions, applaud great service, or complain about quality or service, in a way that can get immediate feedback.

If I were to call Telecom or AT&T about poor service, I'd have to wait for a customer service representative computerised algorithm to understand my responses and put my call in the right queue for attention. Then I'd wait, or not.

Now, I can post a question or a comment in a forum or on a Facebook page and await a response. The response might come from the company or from another customer who has a solution, or who agrees or disagrees with me. It is in the company's best interest to respond quickly to my complaint because other forum users can see what's happening.

Conversations are happening that were impossible before, well, impossible since we moved away from the front porch and first-name basis of interacting with our community.

Stay tuned . . . . for Part 2.

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