Listen to Your Customer's Stories to Improve Your Business

Social media are here to stay, and businesses of all sizes can take advantage to better serve customers, inform product development, and strengthen marketing. So how do companies start leveraging social media and communities in order to drive immediate returns? By simply "listening" to the stories your community is telling on the Web, you can become the proverbial fly on the wall—and reap the benefits along the way.

Sound too good to be true? As the Internet has become a true participatory medium, consumers are interacting with brands and companies in new ways, sharing more information about personal preferences, history, and opinions than ever before. The Internet has rendered the customer experience an open book, with that book often including stories or narratives detailing personal experiences with a company and its products. Some are encouraging, some are critical, and many are highly opinionated. All bring deep insight to a company about its customers.

So, what do you need to do to get started? Small businesses can easily leverage existing social mediums—like Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube—or build new communities to encourage customer feedback around how they are using a product or feel about a brand. These stories provide a new venue for your business to conduct a two-way conversation with customers and go beyond the customer/provider relationship to create a true community around your company or product. By providing a venue for people to convene and keeping an ear open to the community’s feedback, you’re on your way to capitalizing on the wisdom of your masses.

Mary Lou Song Co-founder Tokoni Cupertino, Calif.

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