Social Media & the Customer Experience

By DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Social media is a large part of my life. Some of it was on accident, but a lot of it I brought on myself. Even five years ago I wouldn’t have thought social media would be such a large part of my career. I currently manage social media for Kansas Corn and Grain Sorghum through this blog, Twitter, Facebook and occasionally YouTube. Away from my job responsibilies checking Twitter and Facebook are a regular part of my daily routine and I’m currently obsessed with Pinterest and finding the latest fashions, graphic design inspiration and dinner recipes.

My friend Travis (former news producer and currently the Multi-Media Producer-in-Residence at Wartburg College) would be very disappointed to hear that I haven’t watched the morning or evening news in… well, nearly two years. Don’t worry, I don’t have my head buried in the sand. I am up to date on current events thanks to text alerts from my local news station and following various news outlets through social media.

Social media isn’t a trend and it isn’t going away any time soon. It is revolutionizing the way we distribute and obtain information. So, what does this mean for companies, and specifically the agricultural industry?

I can instantly convey a message to my 2,000 followers. Will they all see it? Most certainly not, but it has the potential to spread like wildfire. People share experiences and advice through social media. This is done instantaneous through social media. In the past, a person would probably have to wait to tell his/her friends about an experience. Today, with the use of smartphones and tablets, we can send a message (factual or not, good or bad) about a grocery store product or a conversation with farmer instantly to the internet.

My friend/mentor, Dr. Bill Withers recently posted this photo on Facebook about a visit to Granite City:

The caption read, “It’s THIS SIMPLE! And I asked our waitress if she was trained to do this… “Yes!” Great QCS [Quality Customer Service]. My Granite City leftover container showed Dish, Date, Server, and “GC” brand-logo, all signed by her… http://www.gcfb.net/

Did I click on the link which lead to their website? Yep, sure did! Did I happen to check out the restaurant locations in my area and browse the menu too? Uh-huh.

Bill also wrote, “And, would I ask for Sam’s server-section next time down there? Of course. When you TRAIN for QCS, everyone wins, trust me. And yes, “leftovers” were delicious tonight!”

Not only did his experience leave a good impression on him, but also his Facebook followers- including myself.

Word-of-mouth is huge and a very valuable part of marketing. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations; 14% trust advertisements. While it’s great for ag groups to sponsor events and purchase media buys, it’s obvious that the farmer-consumer conversations are a must. This is one of the many reasons I enjoy the CommonGround movement so much. Our farm women volunteers do their best to reach out to the consumer (both in person and through social media) to tell them about their farms and the food they produce. One good conversation with a consumer is valuable. Hopefully, that consumer will share the good experience she had with others.

Ross Schafer, the author of Nobody Moved Your Cheese, Customer Empathy, The Customer Shourts back, Are You Still Relevant, and Grab More Market Share recently spoke at the National Agri-Marketing Conference. One of the many great things he said was, “When you study human behavior, you will always win.” Think about that for a moment. When you’re at a store, what motivates you to buy certain products? Name brand? Cost? Health? Convenience?

Emotions. Emotions influence every purchase decision. When consumers write to complain about a business they often use the words rejected, unimportant, or embarrassed. Farmers need to be able to communicate to consumers in a way that shows them that their concerns are valid and that they care. Let’s not overthink this- people like to feel cared for. 

Women don’t just buy a brand- they join it then talk about it. You better believe that I’ll be talking about good purchasing experiences (such as my recent purchase from Gracie & Me Design on Etsy) and bad ones (my recent DISH fiasco) on social media platforms.

Today, consumers want NOW. The faster we can respond, the better. “Normal business hours” no longer exist. Consumers can shop online at all hours and more and more banks are opening on Sundays or have later hours.

Earlier I mentioned how Bill told all his Facebook followers about his great experience with Granite City.  He went a step further and commended the restaurant, personally. Bill received the following response shortly later, which was also documented on Facebook:

Social customer service at its best? Most definitely.

The agricultural industry will continue to grow in social media. (If you don’t think we’re already active, just search #agchat or #foodchat on Twitter.) My hope is that though face to face conversations, social media and traditional media, farmers will continue to build relationships with consumers. So many folks are disconnected from livestock and fields but want to know more about food. They are listening. Are we talking? More importantly do we care for our consumers? Certainly! Let’s show them by going above and beyond.

 
Additional resources:

9 Ways Top Brands Use Social Media for Better Customer Service

Supermarkets and the social Web

Social Media- Generation II

Cause Matters: Ag & Food Resources

Give Good Customer Service Through Social Media

How Social Media has Changed Customer Service

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