The recent Mailorder Gardening Association conference included an informative panel of MGA members active in various types of social media. Not surprisingly, questions from the audience quickly focused on the ROI of Facebook, Twitter, discussion groups and the like. The panelists each had somewhat different takeaways on the point.
Dave Waterman of Ink-It Digital tells clients that social media is an invaluable opportunity to learn a) what are you doing right, and b) what are you doing wrong. Don’t be afraid of negative comments, he advises; they offer an important opportunity to protect your brand.
Frank DiPaolo of EarthBox reports that customer service calls dropped significantly since EarthBox added a discussion group to their website a few years ago. Answering questions in the discussion group helps multiple customers simultaneously, plus customers jump in and answer each other’s questions. EarthBox still monitors and participates in the discussions, but doing so is far more efficient than responding to phone calls one by one.
Shayna Lashway of Botanical Interests finds social media to be the world’s best focus group. There’s no better way to find out who your customers are, what they like, how they use your product, and what they think of it. If you’re active in social media and you want to know about what the market thinks of your product, your company, or a new product you’re considering — all you have to do is ask!
Susan Robbins of the National Gardening Association remarked that social media is like having children: You don’t have to talk to them 24/7. You do have to check in often and have a general idea of what they’re up to.
The consensus was that it’s unreasonable to expect participation in social media to result in an immediate, significant bump in sales. But for understanding your customer, getting feedback on your products and service, lowering customer service costs, building loyalty, and encouraging word of mouth advertising, social media is hard to beat.