Using Social Media to Build Relationships


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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:

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  • 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!


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