Social media is permission based: you choose to accept people into your electronic life and can cut them out at the speed of light. Looking around a public space, you will notice many with their heads down reading or typing on their phone. You may get the sense that everyone is living online and not in the real world.
It is true that if you are not on any form of social media, you will never read this article, you may end up communicating with your children less that you would like, and possibly even less to your grandkids. Social media is part of our world, like it or lump it.
I started writing this blog entry on June 29, 2013, (at 8:37pm if you must know) the Saturday of the Canada Day long weekend, after spending much of the day outside with my family, having a good long nap, and doing a (very) little yard work. I was also pleasantly surprised by a phone call (admittedly, an older form of social media) from my best friend Joe, for whom my eldest son is named.
(An aside: as I was cutting the lawn my youngest son cleaned up some fallen branches and picked up a large, y-shaped branch and proceeded to pretend to dowse with it (look for water). With the ‘dowse’ in front of him, he walked right up to a nearby fire hydrant and proclaimed “it works!”).
I think that social media is going to eventually go the way of the telephone…ever-present, useful and well used, but it will become just one more communication tool. The excitement that is today’s social media will fade and we will be about as willing to continually check it as we are willing to sit by the phone in case it rings.
Right now, with social media, people ARE doing the equivalent of sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring…in fact, they are carrying their (smart) phones around with them. I have read varying and conflicting stats on the issue, but it is clear that there are huge numbers of people in North America who no longer have land-lines, especially younger people. The advent of personal and work “profiles” for phones will eventually mean that work numbers will be routed to personal cell phones in an increasingly BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment, and land lines for business will begin to decline as well.
As credit professionals we have to find a way to get to those phones!
For people to actually respond on social media (and not un-follow you), you need to offer them something. As a credit department, as an example, you might consider segmenting your list of followers into groups of similar customers (slow payers, for instance) and perhaps offer them a ‘save your credit rating’ early-pay discount deal. You could tweet a link to a cute video message when their payment is due or overdue (it is important to know your customers when making these sorts of decisions).
We as professional credit managers need to learn to use social media to relate to our customers, creditors and debtors. No debtor is going to ‘like’ a credit department on Facebook, but they might already have a relationship with your company’s social media platforms. If your company has a robust Facebook or Twitter presence it might be possible to segment the friend or follower lists into segments useful to credit and collections.
There are lots of issues with social media to navigate (tact, privacy laws, company policies, and building & managing lists is critical and is an art form all on its own), but as an employee, continually adding value includes being innovative with how you deliver your service to the company. If your company has a significant social media presence then speak to those who manage it to see how you can fit into the strategy and how you can leverage that for the benefit of the company.
There are no clear answers and no best practices established. The technology of Social media has the power to remake businesses, but it is people who start revolutions and people who figure out the new and exciting ways that remake industries. So we in credit have to start this process, and that starts by getting onto social media and trying new things.
I guess it is up to us.