Today I want to introduce an intern in our marketing department - Jenna Lamb - who's a senior at Texas Christian University majoring in marketing. I've asked her to share her thoughts in several posts this month about how college age consumers approach small businesses in their daily lives. I think you'll find her comments thought-provoking and good insight into how they view technology and social media influencing the way they do business.
The Way I Use the Internet . . . I Start With Facebook
Whether it’s searching for the dress Heidi Klum wore on last nights’ episode of Project Runway that I need for my sorority formal, or trying to find a local pizza place that delivers at 3 a.m. during finals week, I take full advantage of the internet and the instant gratification I receive from it.
As an always on-the-go college student, I don’t have time to do things the ’normal‘ way. When my mom reminds me I need to change the oil in my car, need to make a hair appointment, or I need to find somewhere that can fix my favorite pair of heels that desperately need some tender love and care, I can always find what I’m looking for on the Internet – and that doesn’t mean browsing only e-commerce catalogs either.
After a productive hour of studying in the library my friends and I allow ourselves ten- minute Facebook ‘breaks’, and don’t even get me started on how many fights have broken out because someone’s boyfriend was tagged in a photo with some unidentified girl. To say the least, social media, particularly Facebook, is an integrated part of my everyday life.
A recent study found that 1/3 of all women ages 18-34 admit to being “addicted” to Facebook, so much so that the first thing they reported doing in the morning is checking their Facebook. To me and my friends, having a Facebook site means a person actually exists, and the same goes for businesses. Social networking tools are an extremely important part of a business’s persona. If your business isn’t there, you’re less relevant to me than one that has a Facebook page.
Want to Know How I Shop? Read On. . .
Shopping to me means I literally have 20 free minutes to quickly browse my favorite fashion blog, look at the latest trends, quickly price compare different sites, and make the final purchase. If I’m already logged into my Facebook site, which I always am, I’ll instantly get message updates informing me of new products, lines, and promotions from my fan pages (If you don’t know what a Facebook Fan Page is, you’re missing out big time).
These updates keep me in the loop on what’s hot this season and keep these businesses on top of my mind. So if my sister asks me where she should get her hair highlighted, or my boyfriend asks me where he can get his mom her favorite flowers for her birthday, I’ll for sure think of the businesses that I see on a regular basis on Facebook.
As a business owner, you need to know that being online with a website, and active with social networking tools are not just ’add-ons‘ to your business. If you want to be found, and get more business, this is how you’ll get the attention of me and my friends.
1. Have a website
If I’m searching for the best cupcake in Texas and your bakery makes the best cupcakes in the state but doesn’t have a website, I will never find you. Guaranteed. I don’t own a phone book, my friends don’t own phone books, and I don’t have the time or motivation to figure out where I could even find one. If I’m Googleing bakeries near my house I want to find what I’m looking for, and fast. Once I’m on the website I need it to be very user-friendly so I can find product information, prices, location, and hours without giving up and trying someone different.
2. … AND social networking tools.
If your business has a social networking site I can quickly navigate and find my needed information. Again, I’m ALWAYS on my social networking websites, so if you bring your business to where I am, then your that much more relevant to me. If I notice some of my friends are your “friends”, it’s like we have an instant connection. The fact that my friends have “recommended” your business to their network of friends must mean that your great and definitely worth a shot!
3. Provide a discount, price cut, promotion, or coupon.
I’m pretty sure when my parents determined my monthly allowance they “forgot” to figure in my weekly pedicure, InStyle and USweekly magazine subscriptions, clothes, and Starbucks addiction. Whenever something is promoted that will save me money to spend on my “essentials,” I am more than willing to sign up for your mailing list, become your Facebook friend, and use your coupon.
4. Keep it updated and fresh.
I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to navigate to a company’s website and find out that it hasn’t been updated since 1999. If your business still has the “Summer Sensations Menu” and it’s December, or if your last Facebook status or Tweet is about who won American Idol Season 92394, then that’s a big red flag. If your site isn’t up-to-date, I’ll assume you either went out of business or don’t care about your customers. Either way, you will not be getting my business.
So… get to know your customers, what they like, and what they think is annoying. Focus your business endeavors on making them happy and on gaining a referral for your business through a new social network “friend.”
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