The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Why Being a Mensch Matters in Social Media

A recent year-end post by Guy Kawasaki on American Express's Open Forum highlighted twelve tips on how to be a mensch, a Yiddish term that is synonymous with being a person of integrity or honor. Each item on the list is built on a variation of the Golden Rule, and that makes for a great checklist for social brands. After all, it's a barter economy out there in the Twitterverse and blogosphere, and in order to receive, you need to give. And, of course, authenticity is the difference between making noise and creating meaning for brands on any platform.

I've taken the twelve resolutions and have tried to match them to lessons from the last 5 months I've spent exploring social media. Hopefully, in the spirit of karma that underlies this list, I hope you'll find something useful here.

Give people gifts other than those that you buy.  Thank people for enlightening you with a good post. Comment on their blogs, and tell them you appreciate them by a re-tweet. Credit them when you use their material.

Become a talent hunter.  Explore your followers.  Find people who have something to teach you. Seek out global experts and small businesses because, after all, it's the world wide web and a bad economy. It's a buyer's market for free agent talent. Reviews and references make it easier to find someone qualified to do business with, so there is no excuse not to strike gold through social media.

Sharing ideas and information that can enrich.  It's too easy to write a snarky post, a cheap headline or perpetuate a rumor. Anyone can be a critic. But taking the effort to be constructive and productive will pay dividends by creating more valuable discussions with your customers.

Spend more time in the “beginner’s mind.”  Who doesn't want to hear 'I can relate'? Empathy is a powerful emotion for brands that engage in social media. Whether you engage in customer support online or want to impress your customers with how innovative you are, consumers just don't have the time to figure out why or how you want to interact with them. Make it simple to find you, talk to you and enjoy your service.

Don’t tell people what they can’t do. When social media inspires audiences to act for causes you can appreciate the power of the positive. Mobilizing fans, followers and friends to act is the big win in social media. It's about motivation.

Minimize the space you take up.  This seems contrary to the goal of growing fans and followers, but in fact it can be the secret to building a big audience. A well written comment on another expert's blog post, a tagged video or a carefully edited tweet can end up reaching orders of magnitude more folks thanks to the power of sharing that is foundational to social media. You don't have to shout to be heard across the web. However, you do need to contribute something valuable so everyone will want to share it. 

Become a relationship anthropologist. Understanding what makes your audience tick will help you engage with them on the platforms and in the ways that are most convenient for them. Understanding how groups behave will help you develop and support communities that will ultimately grow your business. It's a relationship, so lshow you listen.

Get rid of grudges.   Social media does a great job of keeping companies honest about the service they provide or the quality of care they show their customers. Reviews and ratings and comments live on forever, even after a company has tried to make amends. The best advice is for brands not to allow a grudge to develop in social media forums, because forgiveness usually doesn't come with a written retraction. 

Be happy for others.   If you highlight other's wins, you make it easier for them to highlight yours. If you are a start-up CEO, share lessons on a blog or encourage other entrepreneurs with your feedback. If your customers are loyal, reward their satisfaction. Pay attention to the joy others have, because people share when they are happy, and who doesn't want happy customers?

Help others caress the rainbow. It takes a village to be successful, and just like you need help with your start-up or need to grow your audience, so do others. Social technologies are all about sharing the wealth, paying it forward and not hoarding traffic or monopolizing the conversation.

Make people feel better about themselves. Consumers like to choose brands that make them feel they can fulfill their aspirations. The voice that a brand uses  across social media can turn someone off in an instant. Your customers won't engage if they feel reprimanded or rebuffed for trying to connect with you.

View all promises you made in 2009 as an unpaid debt.  You've amassed fans on Facebook and MySpace, you've created a mobile app, you tweet company news, but have you created any new value for your customers through social media yet? If not, it's time...





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