Power is attained by winning friends.
~ Kauthilya, "The Art of Wealth"'
As an entrepreneur your use of social networking sites is to turn your customers into friends, so no automation of your presence on social media if you can help it. You are the one making friends, not the tool. You will also want to use it to get noticed and convert those who like or follow you into customers, but this blog post is about working with your existing customers.
Why customers as friends? Friends want to help. Friends will stand behind you and support you. These customers who are now friends will recommend you to their friends. This of course is all based on your great product. You not only have to be a friend you have to provide your customers with a truly valuable product or service in order for them to want to share. No one wants to cause their friends trouble by referring them to someone who provides inadequate products or services, nor do they want to be seen as a source of bad information.
Making and keeping friends is an important part of small business marketing. As the quote above states, “Power is attained by winning friends.” The article “People more likely to help others they think are 'like them'” describes a study that showed that people felt empathy for anyone in distress, but were actually moved to action by those in their in-group. Customers who are friends will feel a part of your in-group and therefore be more willing to take actions on your behalf.
All this talk of friends isn’t fluff. This is about targeting your ideal customer. And I’m sure your ideal customer profile would include someone who you could call a friend. Think about it, friends are those people you trust, with whom you share similar values, and feel comfortable being yourself around. As an entrepreneur your business is often an extension of who you are so customers that have the characteristics of friends makes sense.
Friendship is also about give and take. This means that if you pretend to like things you don’t like, are insincere about who you are just so people will buy from you then your customers will feel your insincerity. You wouldn’t do this to your friends and if you did they wouldn’t be friends for long.
Networking has always been the key to success for small business. And often you consider those in your network friends. Social media is just a tool that helps you create a larger network than would have been possible before the advent of Facebook or Twitter. Not everyone will become your personal friend, but if the potential is there, if they feel a part of your in-group your customers will likely respond to your calls to action and feel good about referring their friends to you. So get out there and make friends. Have fun!