Creative Best Practices Opinions Social Media

Twins Know: Apples, Babies, and First Instincts Online Don't Mix

Posted by Lorrie Brignac Lee on September 30th, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Twins are mischievous.  They have their own language and often work as a team, tackling problems and making decisions together.  When my twin sister Winnie and I found ourselves faced with a third wheel—a new baby brother—we set out to show him how things were done and to “take care” of him.  Poor brother… he didn’t stand a chance.

We didn’t know much about taking care of a baby, but as twins, we were ready to face any challenge together.  One day, our brother was crying in his crib, and we took it upon ourselves to “fix” this.  Was he sleepy?  Was he sick?  No… he was hungry!  As a kid, I loved apples (and still do!), so naturally, my first idea was to give one to the baby.  However, his only response was to look at it.  We even held the apple up to his mouth for him, but he still didn’t eat it.  Then we remembered that he didn’t have any teeth!  Of course he couldn’t eat it!  What he needed, of course, was a utensil.  Winnie fetched a plastic knife from our little pretend kitchen set and put it in the crib with the apple.  We left him to figure out how to cut the apple and feed himself and went off to play… until Mom saw what we had done.

Luckily, our dull, fake, plastic knife couldn’t harm anyone or anything, and our brother wasn’t hurt by our young decision-making (and our judgment has gotten much better since then!), but we did learn an important lesson: do not give apples and knives to babies, or there will be serious consequences.  Later in life, we learned that there can also be consequences when you go with your first instinct for other decisions, especially in the online business world.

If someone—a customer—is “crying” for something (that is to say, needs something or has a problem), your first instinct may be to look for a quick fix.  However, this might wind up being more harmful than helpful.  You have to know what they really want or need before you can help, and to know that, you must know your audience.  This is especially true in terms of your online audience.

Imagine that a fan posted an angry message on your Facebook wall.  Your initial reaction may be to delete or hide the post so that others don’t see the negativity.  But what if this just upsets the original fan more?  The temporary fix might make things worse later.  What if, instead of deleting the post, you responded to it for everyone to see?  You can recognize the person’s complaint while directing the conversation to a private message for further discussion.  Not only do you show that you wish to help fix the problem, you also show everyone that you care about your customers and want to do what’s best.

Take the time to think things through and really research the problem.  You should have a thorough understanding of the situation, and especially of your target audience and their online behavior, before making any decisions.  How well do you understand them in order to truly know their needs?

  • There are 901,000,000 monthly active Facebook users and over 500,000,000 active Twitter users.  Do you know which ones are “yours”?  There’s no way to connect with all of them.  You must decide who your specific target audience is.
  • When you know whom you want to target, use demographics to figure out where your target spends their time online.  What social networks do they frequent?  Study their habits, patterns, and trends.
  • Study their habits, patterns, and trends—that sentence is worth repeating.  Really get to know and understand your target audience’s online behaviors.  Do they expect to be answered right away?  Do they prefer public posts or private messages?  What time is the majority online?

Twins know—your first instinct, what you want to do to handle the situation—may not be the best solution.  Face the problem with a thorough understanding of it and a solid reason for your decision.  Take your time.  Let them know that you’re working on the problem, but always think your decision through.

And finally—stay with them after you give them your solution!  Don’t just hand a knife and an apple to a baby and leave, and don’t hand a solution to a consumer and hope for the best.  Stay with them and make sure that your response is on target.  They’ll appreciate the extra care from a business that really understands them.

Does your business have a plan to follow in case of a “crying customer” situation?

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