Let's have a quick look at the offline community of customers, first. Companies create new products, advertise them, pay millions of dollars and then they watch their customers buy it (best case scenario). An additional approach, that especially brings Apple large success is to build a community of early adopters. And we all know, early adopters are one of the most important groups of customers. Companies do not need to canvass them. Early adopters choose a product because they know the brand, the quality and their own needs. Early adopters are convinced. Saving company real money.
Let's switch to the online community. First, companies use Social Media to gain attention for their brand. Secondly, they want to know what the community thinks about their products, what their needs are and how they like the company at all. That is where Social Media Costumers (like Fans and Followers) join the game. As they have already choosen to follow the company (most likely because they have made some good offline experience before) they are some kind of "social early adopters". Researches have shown: They are more likely to buy products of companies they "liked" - do follow on Twitter or other social networks. They are also more likely to share information and convince others to have a glance on this and that new stuff of yours.
They are such a strong and powerful part of your customer base and the most important aspect is not the number of social customers but the way you engage and satisfy them. There is really no obvious advantage in having 500 thousand Fans on Facebook. Especially when nobody interacts, maybe when there is even no communication at all. But especially for small and mid-size enterprises, maybe like yours, a small, loyal and engaged base of Follower and Fans brings up enourmous opportunities.
- the company gets a picture of their community
- their Fans and Followers are frank and helpful when it comes to the opinion about your products
- they are persuasive and creative when it comes to convince other people of your brand
- their friends are more likely to become one of your new customers because of their similar interests and needs
- they come up with new ideas for your products and advertisings (e.g. Discover or the issue about the new GAP logo)
- and the best thing: they will do all this mainly for free!
- (small hint: everything they post on your wall their friends will see as well. Cool, heh?)
Think about it!