A month and a half ago, when I spoke at the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey annual conference, I touched on the growing number of marine businesses participating in social networking, as did the person who followed me, Sam Natello of Dot Com Design Studio. This is a subject that holds particular interest for me as our team has been developing a social networking strategy for Boating Industry in recent weeks. In the question and answer period after the presentations, a member of the audience shared his concern that launching a page on Facebook or another social networking site would give any customers with a bone to pick with his dealership the chance to ruin its reputation.
The gentleman's concern is understandable. A business can't satisfy everyone. And certainly, the Internet has given dissatisfied consumers the opportunity to share their feelings with anyone who will listen in their community and around the world. But with countless outlets for sharing - from boating forums, community sites and owner's groups to personal social networking accounts - such consumers don't need to post to your dealership's Facebook page to share their criticisms.
But you should want them to. The benefits of having that person share their opinion on your page are that you have the opportunity to participate in the conversation by sharing your side of the story; to listen and respond to their experience, thereby potentially repairing your relationship with the customer; and to improve your business so that the same situation doesn't occur again.
Research suggests that when companies go out of their way to satisfy a consumer that had a problem with an item or service they purchased, the consumer is likely to be more loyal to that company than if he or she hadn't experienced a problem to begin with. And online ratings and reviews - 80 percent of which are positive, on average - actually increase the likelihood that someone will buy that product or service, according to Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research, authors of "Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies."
"...negative reviews are essential to the credibility of the site - without them, the positive reviews just don't seem believable," they write in their book.
Ultimately, social networking is an opportunity to get closer to your customers and their network of contacts. Yes, like in any relationship, you won't always hear what you want to hear. But if you're open to what is being said, you just may learn something.
In fact, the editors at Boating Industry hope our social networking initiatives will be another way to learn how we can best meet your changing needs. I invite you to use this blog site for that purpose. We want to hear what articles you like and the ones you don't, what topics we can cover that would be useful to your business, which ones aren't and why. Whether you're facing a challenge or an opportunity, we want to be a resource for you and your company. We're personally committed to being your trusted source of proven solutions that deliver real results. As your business evolves to suit the times, we look forward to your insight into how we can serve you each and every day.