• November 2011

Social Media: The New Opportunity for Karmic Payback

By Laura Berger
Executive Coach and Principal
The Berdéo Group

Which of these events do you relate to most?

• The first Moon landing
• Space shuttle Challenger explodes
• Kurt Cobain dies
• Barack Obama is elected our first black president

The answer, of course, probably depends on your generation. Many of us have done an incredible job staying “hip” and embracing the generations that have followed us. Yet, it’s extremely challenging to do so.

Think of the struggles of Phil—the father–from the hit TV show, “Modern Family.” You may have set up a personal Facebook page, created a Twitter account, and own an iPhone.

As business owners and professionals, the bigger question is whether our business’ marketing model is one of the Lost Generation or Generation Z?

Every passing year, we hear that things are changing faster than ever and that we have to be more flexible than ever. Such a statement is more true than ever.

For example, I—and now my clients—have discovered an Eco Smartpen that saves all my handwritten notes as a digital image and simultaneously records the audio of my face-to-face meetings!

What’s more, the way we live our lives down to our favorite breakfast cereal can be profoundly and subliminally influenced by daily traffic on the Internet and social media. So how can you capitalize on a world where your clients look to the digital universe as a decision-making and habit-forming tool?

There are so many ways to leverage the habits of modern generations, including:

1. Capitalize on your customers’ behaviors on display. I impress upon my clients that now more than ever, there is an opportunity for listening. Find out the target market(s) on which you focus the most. Join the groups where they congregate and engage in 90 percent listening and 10 percent communication. As in any relationship, the listening is where the most learning comes, and it’s all out there each and every day for free!

2. Garner the friendship of a larger customer base than you ever imagined. Social media is a constant conversation, but now with hundreds, thousands, and even millions. Be conversational in your social media. Post topics that will entice others to interact to build your following. Do your research and become the go-to expert in your business. Cultivate the universe of followers who will be there whenever you want to advertise a product or service.

3. Be giving of yourself and your company. I have seen amazing results when my clients engage in selfless giving of their knowledge on social media. You’ll get much further by building a story about yourself centered on offering things others can use for free. There is karma in the social network. To flourish, make it all about the customer. Put yourself in your their shoes to make sure that they would truly want to consume your information, and remember that “unfriend” and “unfollow” options are just a split-second click away.

4. Be wise to the value of the question. Putting out a question about your company or a related topic on social media generates buzz and gets others to educate each other on your behalf. There is enormous goodwill that can be gained from being the originator of value without being the provider, and there are few greater cost-benefit equations than leveraging the knowledge of others to do so.

5. Embrace the crown jewel of the complaint. Despite all of our efforts to the contrary, no one is perfect. While the prospect of any customer being able to complain to the entire world can be a frightening liability, it can also be a valuable asset. When a customer complains, run—do not walk—to correct the problem. Turn the comment about how they were wronged into how wonderful your company was to make it right so quickly and possibly how your company, to compensate for the wrong, gave them more than originally promised.

The social network has turned marketing on its ear and is rife with juxtapositions.

You have more access to more clients than ever before, but so do your competitors. Your customers can praise you to the entire world, but also have more leverage to complain about you at the right time.

Mass media has become a garage industry again, while at the same time requiring a level of precise execution and sophistication never before seen.

So be authentic, responsive, giving, facilitative, and create a world of friends and confidants. The world that is your oyster will be filled with pearls if you do.

About Laura Berger

An executive advisor and founder of The Berdéo Group, Laura Berger has 15 years of experience as a consultant advising leadership in the areas of global operations management and strategy, project and change management, and solution development and implementation. She is a confidant of CEOs and senior executives who consistently realize their potential as leaders by seeing their companies flourish.

Having worked with many Fortune 500 companies, she counts among her clients leaders at JPMorgan Chase, State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, General Motors, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, McDonald’s Corporation, American Hospital Association, Leo Burnett Worldwide, Starcom MediaVest Group, and Walt Disney World.

Her ease and zeal for building lasting relationships, acquaintances, and productive introductions between people is her personal trademark. She has stretched her own spirit and will to combine her passions with her professional pursuits, and she shows others how to live true to their core.

Berger exemplifies this commitment to the life path in a book she is co-writing with her husband, Glen Tibaldeo. The book chronicles the humorous side of the successes and challenges they experienced living in the remote jungles of Costa Rica.

For more information, visit www.berdeogroup.com.