By Timothy Maguire
Almost half of the world's Internet users are on Facebook. But how many are "likable?"
For anyone with something to sell, this is a particularly tricky question. Dave Kerpen found a great example of how to be charming and oh-so-subtly self-promoting while checking in to a Las Vegas hotel recently.
After waiting in line 45 minutes, Kerpen, the founder and CEO of the social media marketing site Likeable Media, tweeted his annoyance. Minutes later he got a response. From a different Vegas hotel. "Sorry to hear about your trouble," the tweet said. "We hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in Las Vegas."
That subtle, restrained little tweet impressed Kerpen enormously. In a free lecture at The New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library on Monday, he held it up as an example of how companies -- anyone, really -- should be marketing and monitoring themselves on social media.
"First, they [the competing hotel] monitor Twitter," explained Kerpen. "Not just tweets about them, but their competitors too. Second, I was still in line when I received their tweet so this was a real-time exchange. Finally, no sales pitch. Just sympathy and best wishes for my stay."
This pitch-perfect response, Kerpen says, illustrates some important principles of good social media communication:
Listen, learn and keep listening. If you're new to Facebook, take time to see what your competitors are doing. But also and especially, see what your potential clients are doing. What are they talking about? What are they interested in? Then post about those things. Don't just push a product. Draw people to your page by talking about what they want to talk about. If they get used to coming to your site, they'll think of you when they need your product.
There is no line between customer service and marketing. Sometime after Kerpen's Las Vegas trip, he was asked about that other hotel by someone on Facebook looking to reserve a block of rooms. He said that he never stayed there but praised their customer service. Because this exchange took place on Facebook, thousands of people saw it -- and that one tweet led to thousands of dollars in business.
Respond quickly to all comments, both good and bad. Admit when you've made a mistake and never argue. Let good commenters know you appreciate their support, that they're worth more than any testimonial you can give. And when the comments are bad, publicly promise to fix the problem privately. And then do it. Nobody needs to know the details of how you make it right, but they do need to know you listen and respond.
Do not give in to the temptation to delete negative comments. There are many online complaint forums and they chose yours. Take advantage of the opportunity they've given you.
Be authentic. Which actor's Facebook page has the most likes? You probably wouldn't guess Vin Diesel. With 27 million. He got them by talking about himself in a real and honest way. If you were chatting about your business at the world's largest cocktail party, what would you say? Talk about what inspired and inspires you. What interesting behind the scenes stories can you tell? Try to inspire your customers to talk about their experiences.
Ask questions, don't make statements. The more people talk about you, the better. Fan participation is the goal; you want to get all those "likes" in the game. Statements are passive and won't elicit many responses, but everybody has an opinion. All you have to do is ask for it.
Be patient. Kerpen did not change hotels when he received that tweet. Social media takes a lot of employee time and it usually does not translate into immediate sales. "Likeable Media has been developing an online presence for two years," Kerpen says. "It's not unusual for me to get calls from people who've been following my Facebook page for months or longer." And because they've been following his Facebook page, when they needed help they thought of him.
You can follow Dave Kerpen on Twitter at @davekerpen, on Facebook at facebook.com/likeablemedia, on the web at likeable.com and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org You can read about his new book, Likeable Social Media, at likeablebook.com.