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Wyoming Business Tips for Sept. 11-17


September 2, 2011 — A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Michael Lambert, Wyoming Entrepreneur Market Research Center manager

"In last week's column, you said I still need a website, so why bother with all this social media talk?" Jim, Alpine

Increasingly, many consumers are using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to discuss companies, products and experiences with their friends and peers. Monitoring what people say about your company is an excellent way to learn what you are doing right or wrong.

Consumers also are using these sites to research buying decisions. If you are being discussed, it is probably a good idea if you are part of the discussion. A recent survey by ROI Research asked social network users the reasons they use social media to discuss products and services.

Some of the results: Compare prices, 59 percent; talk about sales or specials, 54 percent; provide feedback to a brand or retailer, 53 percent; give advice, 50 percent; get advice on what to purchase, 50 percent; talk about where to purchase online, 49 percent; express disappointment about a purchase, brand or retailer, 47 percent; talk about where to purchase offline, 47 percent; talk about current styles, models, etc., 47 percent; and connect with customer service, 36 percent.

The study says when consumers voice complaints using social media they tend to be in the areas of household products, telecommunications and healthcare. Sports-related brands, magazines and newspapers and alcoholic beverages tend to receive relatively low levels of complaints.

Would you refuse to discuss your products and services with a customer who came into your store? If the answer is yes, then social media is probably not for you. However, if you refuse to talk to customers when they are trying to tell you what they like and dislike, then you may find it challenging to be successful. If you are interested in understanding how you and your products or services are perceived by the people who pay your bills, then social media can be a valuable tool and a way to connect with customers.

No matter the industry, customers are using social media and the web to research and discuss you. If you want to be part of the discussion, you have to enter the conversation.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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