Using Social Media to Build Relationships

A lot of businesses love social media because they feel it helps them spread the word about their organization and what they do. And it does. However, I strongly feel one of the most effective uses of social media is to build and deepen relationships with customers – be they consumers, clients, donors, or constituents. I predict this will be a big focus for social media in 2012.

How can this be effectively done? Let’s take a cue from local government. No, really.

Tweet the Mayor

One of the most interesting stories about local government and social media is that of Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker. He has become one of the best examples of how to use social media to build relationships with people, in his case, the people of Newark. Last winter, when much of the East Coast was buried in snow from one of the largest storms in decades, Newark’s citizens reached out for help – via social media. And Mayor Booker and his team were listening via Twitter and went into action. Take a brief look at the segment I did on this for NBC San Diego, then come on back after the video:

View more of Becky Carroll’s videos at: http://nbcsandiego.com.

  • Citizens told Mayor Booker where streets were still snowed-in, and he sent trucks out to plow and went himself to help them.
  • Mayor Booker shoveled snow for the elderly.
  • He helped push stuck cars out of the snow.
  • He delivered supplies to needy residents (including diapers!)
  • He directed salt trucks to icy roads.

As anyone in social media knows, not everyone is your friend online. When one constituent bad-mouthed Mayor Booker on Twitter, Cory showed up at his door and helped him shovel out.

A Whole New Era of Politics

This is so different from how citizens interacted with government in the past, when people tried calling, emailing, letters, and even going into the politician’s office, often without much response. Social media, by contrast, provides not only the opportunity for an instant response but also for a personal response.

Mayor Booker has continued to reach out via social media and has recently launched a new program, using Twitter and Facebook, to encourage Newark citizens to become more fit in 2012. Called the Cory Booker Challenge, it encourages Newark residents to share their resolutions online via a social game to help them in their efforts to become more physically fit. The site allows participants to track their progress by checking into activities, uses a leader board to encourage healthy competition, and even has prizes. (Hat tip to The Next Web for highlighting this program.)

Making a Difference in 2012

In this election year, it will be fascinating to see whether other politicians follow Mayor Booker’s lead in becoming more personal with their constituents via social media. Not to have solely an aide or agency respond but to truly build authentic relationships through personal involvement. I challenge businesses to do this as well.

Make 2012 the year you use social media to build relationships with your customers. You’ll be glad you did. Share your efforts to do so here so we can celebrate with you!

(Photo credit: hh5800)

21 Responses

  1. That story illustrates one of the most important aspects of social media, in my opinion. I actually think that these sorts of unexpected gestures can be more influential than an entire year of scheduled Twitter updates, because it reminds followers that, yes, there is a real human attached to that handle. In a way, it validates the messaging and empowers followers when they see such a direct effect from their actions.

  2. Too often we forget that people are driving social media. To see the online and offline worlds converge like that is really great. These two worlds are not separate from each other and we shouldn’t expect them to be.

  3. Joe Pop

    Ms. Carroll, what a coincidence the cameras were around that same spot “twitter mayor” happened to be “shoveling”, hmmmm. Anyway, how bout u tweet him and ask him about the Police Officer who on that same day was assaulted by a man with a knife on the North side of Newark. Ask him how come it took TWENTY minutes for BACKUP to arrive to assist that officer when he was only a 2 minute drive(lights and sirens) from the nearent police precinct. Nice of him to help the man who cursed him out, rather than dig out any patrol cars. Truth is, SOOOO many people were COMPLAINING, DAYS AFTER that storm that the streets were still COVERED IN SNOW. So, Since the workers of Newark didn’t show up to Newark, someone had to call the cameras and “jump in to action”, even if only for 5 mins of fame….

  4. I agree with Joe MacFadden, the really significant potential for social media is when it works together with the world offline. I don’t agree with analyses that suggest Social Media and online will simply take over everything (not that this article is suggesting that).

    Engaging with the social world is a double-edged sword of course – you have to be able to take the bad with the good and to respond constructively (comments like Joe Pop’s above illustrate perfectly how you can leave yourself open to attack).

    If you ignore a grievance or seek to bury it once you’ve moved into the social arena, expect repercussions. The old favourite story ‘United Breaks Guitars’ is a frightening illustration for companies of what can happen when you fail to react swiftly to what’s going on around you.

  5. Joe Pop

    Jenni, im not really attacking, just stating the truth. “Twitter mayor” focuses on HIMSELF and himself only. He ignores the constant, daily problems Newark faces. He plays “golden boy” real good. How many other Mayor’s you ever see on CNN, MSNBC, WFAN.. etc… He gets you with his words, but in the end, its all BS. You can reference a tweet he made a few weeks ago, where a carjackin victim in Newark was charged more than $800 to retrieve his car. Well, that “story” leaked, and what did “twitter mayor” do? He tweeted that it was a huge mistake and victim was REFUNDED. Well, that was news to the victim. A follow up story after Booker’s tweet had the victim asking where his money was!! So, you see, Booker cares only about his image.

    Booker was all about public safety, backing the Police. What did he do once elected 2nd term? Well, he fired EVERY single cop he hired. 50+ of them graduating March of 2010, then getting FIRED November 2010. You telling me that wasn’t a “political move”? But again, how could you not love his “tweeting”?

  6. Social media provides the link that connects people from across the globe. On the marketing side, it has brought the line from the product and service providers to customers and vice-versa. Politically, Twitter has made every citizen an active participant in governance. They have contributed more in local administration by feeding information to authorities enabling the latter to respond more quickly.

  7. Technology has really changed the way we communicate. On a business perspective, social media has become a pivotal tool in the global market. In many countries, people learn about new products and companies through social media posts and updates. But like any other technology, when used properly it can increase productivity, but used improperly, it can destroy businesses and reputations.

  8. Social media is a great platform for companies and organization to reach out to its audience not only for marketing purposes but also to develop a close relationship to its customers.

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  13. Who would not merit Mayor Cory Booker for his unorthodox method significantly reducing crime rate in Newark. I still can’t forget how he patrolled the streets until 4am all by himself. Now that’s a leader that serves with passion and dedication. I agree that certainly, businesses should have the same dedication, sincerity and mindset.

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