Chris Brogan on How to Build Deeper Relationships With Your Customers Online

Your social media strategy should have a solid foundation and fluid outposts where you can connect with customers.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the June 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

In the 1990s, the internet was a bunch of banners and brochures. Now we have social networks, which allow for much richer two-way interactions. Instead of just signposts on the web, we have the opportunity to build outposts where people can be seen and heard. Here's my advice on how to use both tools effectively.

Your main site is your home base
There are two things your website should do well: execute a solid call to action and give people a way to connect with you further. Stop reading this article for a moment and bring up your own site. If you squint at it--or if I squint at it--will either of us know what you want me to do next? If not, fix it. That's your first opportunity to do business with me. No matter how complex your business, your site should give visitors a really clear and obvious action to take.

Second, how easy have you made it for me to contact you? That's your second chance to get my business. Rethink your contact options.

The purpose of a great home base is that people who talk with you on the various social networks will feel warm and comfortable about taking the next steps with you. Most people's websites are cluttered, making it unclear what users are supposed to do next. Yours will be different once you have the top two items in hand.

Social progress
Top social media accomplishments reported by small businesses in 2010

59 percent Identifying and attracting new customers

61 percent Developing a higher awareness of the business in a market

63 percent Staying engaged with customers

Social networks are outposts
If you think of social networks as places where things other than your business happen, then you're starting to get how this all works. People aren't there to find you. They're there for their own purposes. Your job is to have an outpost there and to listen, so that when someone expresses a need you can address, you'll have the ability to start a relationship. This is what I mean by talking signs. Your outpost shouldn't just contain a bunch of witty advertising. Your Facebook page should consist of more than well-crafted offers.

The real win is in making relationships that stick. At the outposts, the goal is not to talk about yourself and your offers. It's about engaging with others, making relationships and being accessible, should the need arise. Some tips:

  • Set up Google Alerts to search on not just your company and product name, but also to pinpoint ways people might identify a problem that your product or service can solve.
  • Use Twitter Search to do the same using Twitter.
  • Talk with others about their interests long before you talk about your company.
  • When you take on new customers, ask if you can follow them on Twitter and suggest they "like" your Facebook page. Invite them to communicate with you through these outposts.
  • Spend 30 minutes a day for two weeks working on these spaces. Eventually, 30 minutes won't be enough time, but for now it's a good way to start.

Connecting Matters
In last month's column, I talked about bridging your company's on- and offline presence. These talking signs are my way of helping you bridge social networks to your main website of preference. With all this connectivity, your efforts to communicate and build relationships will translate to business faster. It's how I do what I do, and it can work for you.


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