Social media networking has become a prominent feature of nearly all aspects of life in the last few years. For many business owners, this new online database presents us with enormous opportunity for communication and promotion but also forces us to grapple with questions of privacy and define boundaries for personal and professional interactions. Networking sites such as Facebook give people the tools to create online representations of themselves but don’t address the ways in which personal representations change in different situations. This makes it easy for businesses to reach out to clients, but doing so successfully means approaching customers carefully, without violating a sense of privacy and professionalism.
For example, with Facebook, the main way to build up a page is to collect friends, fans or followers. A business can do so by either being directly sought out by users, or by suggesting their page to their clients; but how does one promote a business page to customers without directly “friending” them? As one way to avoid a bleed over of our agents’ and clients’ personal lives, here at Barber Insurance we created a social mediator by building a mascot page. Using the lovable image of one of our agents’ dogs, who spends his days in our family-friendly Berkeley insurance office, we constructed the Duke Barber web persona, thus mitigating our need to "friend" our clients personally, but still enabling us to publicize our business’ page by having Duke "suggest" our business page to his "friends".
Like many businesses, our Facebook page is essentially a marketing tool. It does provide us with an alternate means of communication when phone and email fail us, but for the most part, we look to use the site as means of keeping our customers updated and informing the public of our services and values. One common strategy for generating interest and traffic to our page is the use of online promotional drawings. The concept is simple; sweepstakes require fans to interact with the page, which brings it visibility and appeal.
However be aware, recently Facebook has taken issue with their inadvertent involvement in these widespread contests and promotions. It’s still possible to use Facebook to publicize promotions, but legally, you must use a third party application to facilitate all aspects of the actual contest at the risk of losing your entire page. In using Facebook as a tool for the stimulation of business growth, it is equally important to be aware of their legal policies, as it is to be aware of our clients’ comfort levels in interacting with agencies as professional entities.
Whether it's Twitter, Linked, Facebook or more, by using careful and considerate networking practices, these social media networks can become immense tools for both reinforcing relationships with existing clientele and communicating and marketing to the public.
About the Author: Cheryl Fessenden, partner at Barber Insurance Agency in Santa Rosa, CA has 26 years of experience and love for her family insurance business. "I truly enjoy the connections with our customers as they find our agency, and discover a knowledgeable, caring and fun group of people to work with."