Although it’s expanded and morphed to become a catch-all term that means both everything and yet nothing, “social media” started with user-generated content, as sites like Yelp enabled consumers to weigh-in and sway collective opinion.
And while Twitter and Facebook (in particular) have stolen the buzz scepter from those UGC pioneers, the importance of facilitating customer-created content has not faded a bit.
But yet, companies seems hell-bent on making it difficult for patrons to make and upload content that could introduce their business to large numbers of new customers. This is extraordinarily short-sighted.
A few weeks ago I was in Calgary, Alberta visiting my friends and clients at AdFarm, an advertising agency that specializes in agriculture. After an in-office wine tasting, some of the AdFarm team and I went out on the town. (side note: as mentioned at the event, wine grapes are the only agricultural product where yield has an inverse relationship to quality).
We went to a newish pub called Wurst – a sly, modern take on a traditional German brew hall, complete with large steins, gingham clad waitresses, and a panoply of sausage options. With long, wooden, communal tables throughout, this is the kind of place where unusual situations occur, alliances are formed, and discoveries are made.
The glassware and signage alone is interesting, as the “beer boot” is the house speciality, and Miss Oktoberfest is humorously ironic. As these images suggest, Wurst is tailored to create word of mouth in almost every way. Except one.
I’m in Calgary. I’m a couple of beer boots into a crazy night. I’m an over-sharer with a nasty Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter habit. I do not have roaming data enabled, because I’m in Canada. And there’s no Wi-Fi at Wurst.
(Note: Since this post was published, Wurst contacted me (nicely) via Twitter to say they have had free Wi-Fi since they opened. I’m delighted they are paying attention in social media, and perhaps Wi-Fi was simply down the night I was there. Lessons in the post remain the same.)
No Connection, No Real-time Social Media
If you want your customers to make content (and any sort of B2C business with an actual location does), you need to remove every possible barrier to instant creation and upload. Because once they walk out that door, the chances of them spreading your message to their friends on Facebook and beyond plummets like the Eagles’ playoff chances.
Sharing is about verisimilitude and in-the-moment expression, not calculated, “I’ll do that when I get home” planning. Why do you think Facebook is opening up apps that allow/encourage/force us to note that we are “drinking” “eating” “watching” “listening” and “buying”?
It’s about real-time. Now more than ever. Don’t stand in the way of your customers’ sharing like some kind of information bouncer. Open the Wi-Fi. Add signage encouraging participation in Yelp and Facebook and Foursquare and Instagram. Train your staff to spot great photo opportunities and give them the equipment to take them.
This isn’t that hard, folks. You just have to pay attention and think like a customer.