Social Media and Symbiosis

Scientists and biologists have talked about symbiosis, a word derived from the ancient Greek meaning syn- “with” and biosis-“living” since Plato was a pup. In the late 18 hundreds, social scientists began using the term in connection with people living together in mutual relationships. In nature, there are three common types of symbiotic relationships, mutualistic, commensalistic and parasitic. It is my assertion that these three relationships are also present in our social media world. Which relationship type are you?

Mutualistic relationships are described as a relationship wherein both parties benefit. A great example from nature of this type is the Clown Fish and the sea anemone. A sea anemone has hundreds of poisonous tentacles to ward off predators, but the clown fish is immune to the poison. He hides from his enemies in the tentacles, eats small invertebrates and his waste feeds the anemone. Let’s not take this analogy too far, but the best types of relationships in the social media world are mutualistic, where both parties benefit. There are many great examples of businesses sharing educational and entertaining posts which enhance the lives of their fans. Their fans, in turn, visit the business and serve as ambassadors for their store by recommending you and your page or site.

The Chevrolet MirayCommensalistic relationships are recognized as those in which one party benefits and the other is not harmed or helped in any way. There are few examples of commensalism in nature and in social media, but I think a good example is my photograph of the Miray from the NAIAS. Several dealerships have “borrowed” it for their Facebook cover picture. They benefit by having a striking cover picture and I, in no way am harmed or will I benefit in any way.

Parasitic relationships exist when one party benefits and the other is harmed. We all know people who behave in a parasitic manner. The best thing about social media is, when people act parasitic, you can block or delete them. For what it’s worth, don’t be a social media parasite and don’t accept them in your life.

Social media is based on people “living with” and relating to each other. You and your team can build healthy social media relationships by focusing on becoming more mutualistic.

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Automated Love!

Professional speakers and trainers tend to spend many hours using free wi-fi in sandwich and coffee shops across the land. We meet clients, write, read, and maybe most importantly, watch the interesting interactions of the people who cross our paths. One such day at the local Panera Bread, three young ladies took the table next to me and began to rave about the “awesome” white sports car one of them had recently purchased. Not only was she a proud new owner of her “first new car” but her friends were obviously envious of her new wheels as well.

Then the conversation took a very negative tone.

The young lady disgustedly proclaimed how she had just spent $36K with the local dealership where her family had done business for years, and all she got was a “bleeping” automated email. “I mean what the bleep, I spent more money than my parents did for their first house…and all I get is a “bleeping” automated email to thank me?”

As a dealership, whatever client services or relationship management software system you use…make it personal!

And that doesn’t mean merely typing in their full, given name from the contract.

“I consult and train dealerships on building strong customer relationships, do you mind if I ask you a quick question?” I said. After the typical “What’s with this guy look” she nodded and agreed to entertain the question.

“What could the dealer or sales person have done that would have made you happy?”

“They could actually show me that they care! I don’t that’s too much to ask.”

Automated love doesn’t leave customers feeling that the dealership really cares. Nothing can damage or stifle customer relations more significantly that a “personal contact” that is perceived as highly impersonal. Don’t get me wrong! Friendly reminders and the occasional educational communique can be routine and automated, but thank you notes must be personal. That’s right! Just a simple thank you note will go a long way. For those who have forgotten the lost art of handwritten thank you notes, here is a brief reminder:

Address them directly: Start off with a “Dear ….” greeting or if it’s a long-time customer you can call them by their first name if more appropriate.

Keep it simple: There is no need to get all syrupy and cutesy. Keep it simple and specific. Thank them for coming to you for their transportation needs and welcome them to the dealership “family” or make a statement that will tie-in to the dealership tag line.

Sign-off…don’t sell: Sincerely thank them again and tell them how important their relationship is to you and the dealership. Reassure them that you will be their to meet their continued needs. DON’T UPSELL or even thank them for their BUSINESS. This is all about personal relationships!

A simple thank you note would have made our first time buyer Panera Bread friend much happier. In fact, thank you notes will make everyone happier. The next time you use a “Automated Love” email “Customer Relationship Management” software system, think about the young lady in Panera Bread…how did it make her feel?

Kill the automated love! Relationship building starts with a simple thank you note. And thanks to Panera Bread for the Wi-Fi.