It's About EngagementLast May I explained why I don’t like to get paid in full and in advance noting that this usually meant the client was more interested in the tax write off than in building a quality website. I added that it was next to impossible for me to do good work when a client is simply not engaged in the process.  In reviewing that earlier post it occurred to me that I sounded like a curmudgeon. (Okay, sometimes I am a curmudgeon). So in an effort to soften that perception, let me tell you what, in my opinion,  makes an ideal client.

It’s About Engagement

We recently began to hear the catch phrase Web 2.0 – a clever term that signaled the beginning of a new, more collaborative, participatory web and whose fundamental rule, according to Tim O’ Reilly of O’ Reilly Media is that “users have value”.  And that is the essence of today’s social web. It’s not so much about a web site as it is about a web presence. If your web site is your online home base, then your social profiles are your online outposts feeding vital information back and forth. But what’s really changed is the underlying objective. It’s no longer about businesses using the web to push their marketing message down people’s throats. It’s about establishing and nurturing online relationships. And like all relationships, listening is more important than talking. The web is a two way street now and smart businesses understand that it’s about using the vast array of social tools at our disposal to engage their constituents.

A Case Study – Victoria Station, Salem, MA

John Andrews, Executive Chef, Victoria StationJohn Andrews, the Executive Chef and Social Media Manager at Victoria Station in Salem, Massachusetts, understands the importance of building relationships. That’s why it’s a pleasure to work with him. He actively posts new status updates, photos and videos to Victoria Station’s Facebook page. Vic’s Boathouse is the new lounge at Victoria Station and John uses twitter on a regular basis to let his customers know about special promotions, musical happenings and more. Victoria Station’s homepage features a Youtube video, a MailChimp newsletter signup form and a dynamically changing calendar of events. In the true spirit of today’s self manageable web, John uses Squarespace to maintain the Vic’s Boathouse website and to edit and customize photos. John regularly checks in with his friends and contacts through foursquare, a social site that offers new ways to explore your city, earn points and unlock badges for discovering new things. He is, in a word, CONNECTED. But what really impresses me is the very visible link from Victoria Station’s homepage to its Yelp page. Why does that impress me? Because while the vast majority of what I see there are positive four and five star reviews, a few are less flattering. By letting me see those too, I get the message that Victoria Station is not perfect but that John is willing to listen to criticism and willing to improve. That’s how to build authentic, meaningful relationships. And meaningful relationships build successful businesses.

In his wonderful post titled The Biggest Secret of Social Media, Chris Brogan makes the simple assertion that “if you don’t like people very much, it won’t work very well.” John Andrews likes people.

How are you using social media to build relationships? What has been your experience? Is it working for you? Let’s talk about it.

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