Anyone following me on twitter will know we recently had some issues with a large service provider. Notwithstanding the lack of ADSL completely for a 5  day stretch, or 8 outages in just on 8 weeks, all of which affected over 300 houses and businesses in our area. It has occurred to me throughout this experience, that whatever their social media strategy is, it’s not working for their clients.

I turned to twitter and Facebook after the 4th outage. And after nearly a week of patiently asking the same questions over and over, I finally got someone to admit, publicly, that the social media team was completely incapable of dealing with any real queries.

Whoever these lovely, bubbly friendly ladies and gents are, they are not equipped to deal with anything beyond “ Cowbunga  dude , that was RAD service ! Thanks man! “

And that’s a massive failure on the part of that large company. Not necessarily the uber cool and flippantly coy marketing graduates manning the desks, but rather their management team, for even thinking, that Cowabunga is a valid strategy  for any serious  business in the social media space.

Pick your channel and do it well.

Upon deeper reflection, and after poring through their Facebook feed, it’s clear to me that they have worked to tick the boxes with their dedicated social media team.

  • Comments are allowed from anyone (projecting openness)
  • Comments are responded in a reasonable time ( projecting responsiveness)
  • Cool pictures and interesting info gets shared at sporadic intervals

And yet, oddly enough, it’s still not working.

While pondering this  point I had a mini-epiphany in an awesomely schadenfreude kinda way.  I realised that even with a whole team of young millennials working feverishly on their tablets and smartphones, they not only struggle with the holiest of social media holy’s ( the 80/20 rule), but also their entire strategy has one big gaping hole in it, where any small to mid sized business could outstrip and outshine them hands down.

So where is this big gaping hole in their strategy? 

It all boils down the the fact that unless you are saying “Wow you guys are like, so cool”, they are totally unequipped to deal with your question or complaint in any serious fashion. If your query extends beyond that which could easily be Googled from their public website, then you’re unlikely to get the answer. Ever.

I know this, because every query outside the realm of what they deem acceptable for the channel  is handled by giving out a call centre number, a chat link for a service desk, or a URL for one for the technical web feeds. Every Single One. There isn’t simple straight clear answer on that page when the query is a more detailed than “When is the iPhone coming out ? “

The social media team has no more access to any useful information than I do. And even worse than that they will repeat over and over that every outage is fixed at 100% of effort and quality is important to them, and they HEAR us and totally understand our frustration.

They also miss the point entirely, that “I will find out” is a perfectly acceptable response provided you actually do go and find out and come back with the answer or an update.

Meh, I’m not feeling very heard actually, when the question I am asking is deftly avoided for nearly  6 weeks straight.

And that’s where you could do better. With your secret weapon.

So, what can you as a small business owner learn from all of this?

The truth is, as a small business owner, you have something that  corporate social media employees will never have.

And it’s the reason why Small Business can and should kill it on social media every single time, if they have the right plan, and the right approach.

What is this magical silver bullet, you ask?

You are in fact the secret sauce , because you,as  the owner, manager  and chief person in charge have ALL the information necessary to answer every single question from your clients, prospects and followers about your business  that come your way via social media. Your lack of a dedicated Social Media Team greater than 1 or 2  is in fact your biggest advantage. When the company is small enough that you can shout down the hall to someone to give you an answer right this instant, it makes it super easy to give that answer out to a client via ANY channel in a really short space of time, on twitter or otherwise.

There is no single social media team member at a large corporate anywhere in the world that has that. Not one. Corporate management have gone out of their way to make it so, because they don’t understand social media, and they are more interested in gaining efficiency in their query management process, than they are in actually resolving your query efficiently for you, on your terms.

So, I’m talking to you now, Mr Print Shop owner with 30 years experience, I’m talking to you, Ms Plumber with the smartphone . You, with your family business employing 6 people,  the electrician  in your 4×4 workhorse,  you could blow those large social media budgets out of the water.


You can.

Because you have access to everything you need to know to answer queries about your business quickly, openly,  and like a human being who has the facts. That’s something that the social media team from my service provider will never have. It’s a powerful tool. I only hope you are using it.