I recently attended the Business Communicators Summit for the KC chapter of IABC. One of the breakout sessions featured Chris Hernandez, the communications director of the city of Kansas City, Mo. He talked about connecting and engaging with their residents on social media. You might be wondering how this can apply to you as an independent grocery retailer, but hear me out! One of the best things about having a social media presence for your store is the ability to easily connect and engage with your customers. Use your social media platforms as a two-way communication with your customers and you will see an increase in engagement on your page, which often translates to more customers in your store and stronger brand advocates who will promote your store to their friends and family.
During his session, Hernandez emphasized the importance of transparency and two-way communication with KC citizens. For example, the city created a First Fridays exhibit, called The Art of Data, that included graphs of city statistics. They placed it next to artwork at the First Fridays in downtown Kansas City. This was just one example of their main communication objective: meet people where they are and do something unexpected. The city employees knew that their citizens would be attending the very popular First Fridays events to enjoy local art, so they created art with information that their citizens need to know and placed it next to the art they were already viewing. Talk about unexpected!
But the most important way that Kansas City, Mo. city officials use social media to engage with citizens is to listen. One example of this is how the city regularly responds to tweets to their profile about the streets during the winter. They use GPS technology to track where the snow plows are currently located. Then they check the routes to see how long it will take the plows to get to the location the person tweeting is asking about. Sometimes people think when they tweet at an organization (even using the @ to include their handle), it’s just going out into cyberspace and they’re just venting. They don’t always expect somebody to respond. The city of KC responds.
This two-way, transparent communication is as important in business as it is in government. Share with your customers what is important to them. Additionally, ensure you know what is important to your customers by asking them what matters to them when it comes to your store. Don’t just assume you already know.
The city officials in KC have found creative ways to gather information from city residents on social media. They offer live Twitter Chats about the budget on a regular basis so all citizens can ask questions and participate in the discussion about the city’s budget. The city also offers an open data portal where any citizen can access data about the city. They can also view a performance dashboard that tracks progress toward city goals.
Additionally, the communication team regularly asks their citizens questions on Facebook and Twitter. Then they compile the answers and share them with the appropriate city official so that the right person is aware of what the people have to say on a given topic or issue.
While your store isn’t going to ask for customer input on budget allocations, you can use social media as a platform to ask questions or just gather general customer feedback about your store(s). Some retailers are unsure about these open forum discussions for fear of negative feedback. But if you look at it from the perspective of trying to make the best possible shopping experience for your customers, you will learn to embrace the negative feedback as a way to make your store even more successful.
Social media gives you a quick, efficient and relatively inexpensive way to easily interact with your customers. Use that to your advantage and start connecting and engaging!