The awesome power of social media

March 1, 2011

Johnson’s World by Steve Johnson

Joe the printer puts in way too much time at the shop. As owner of a commercial printing facility, he always seems to have too much work but never quite enough business. His family doesn't think he takes enough vacation, and his wife Fanny long ago cultivated other interests to keep herself busy.

Joe has a cell phone and a Facebook account, although he doesn't use them much. His kids are more up on things, texting friends instead of calling and constantly posting to their Facebook accounts from their mobile phones. His wife Fanny dabbles in the usual activity of older adults on Facebook, namely looking up old classmates.

Just this month, Joe was treated to a shocking demonstration of the awesome power of social media combined with handheld devices. Mind you, Joe has slept through his share of seminars, but this one was so gripping, so compelling that it kept him wide-eyed and riveted throughout.

It seems that last month an old highschool sweetheart of Fanny's stalked her on Facebook. Romeo was now working in town and asked Fanny to meet him for lunch some time, “just to catch up.”

Fanny accepted the offer but for some reason chose a date when she knew Joe would be out of town. She also neglected to tell Joe anything about it.

Fanny's old love was more wrinkled than she remembered him, but when he looked in her eyes and started talking to her she felt 14 all over again.

Romeo was so sorry he dumped her for that cheerleader 35 years ago. He wanted to make it up to her. By the time lunch was over, Fanny was acting and thinking like a teenager in love.

That's why she gave Romeo her cell phone number instead of her landline. That's all Romeo needed. Some 2,000 text messages (that's a quarter million characters of sweet nothings) later, Fanny announced that she was leaving Joe to marry Romeo.

It could happen to your business

What can we learn from this sordid tale? Instead of moralizing, let's pretend that this increasingly common situation is strictly business. Joe is an overworked printer. Fanny is a longtime client. Romeo is a salesman for a rival shop.

Joe neglects his existing clients just as he neglects his wife. Romeo is a hungry salesman looking for an opportunity and practiced at using unconventional means to achieve his ends. Fanny, like so many print buyers, seems to be happy but feels vaguely unsatisfied, unappreciated and, frankly, bored with her current vendor.

Sound familiar?

Salespeople are having more and more trouble getting past voicemail. Email messages to prospects aren't being returned, either. The same is true for courtesy calls to steady, “satisfied” clients.

It is time to try something different. You should already be monitoring clients on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. How about posting a message to a prospect's Facebook wall?

Surely you have cellphone numbers for your best contacts. Why not send them a text message next time you have something new to show them? In fact, doesn't it make sense to use new methods of communication to show clients that your firm really understands new methods of communication?

Are you scraping for an appointment just so you can show another tired PowerPoint presentation to a dozing prospect? How about producing a short video instead? Post it on YouTube for all to see, and then easily score followup appointments with the prospects who post comments on your video.

One more thing

If you are reading this in the evening or over the weekend, put the magazine down. Go give your spouse a hug. And watch those text messages.