Friending. Tweeting. News Feed. Fan Page. There's a whole new lexicon to learn when you step into the world of social media. Maybe you think it's fun to get involved with social media as a personal activity, but why bother when it comes to your fleet?
The answer is far simpler and far more compelling than might be expected, especially given all the created-just-yesterday buzzwords flying around — not to mention the just plain annoying trendiness of this whole online scene that does turn many off at the get-go. It's also easy enough to dismiss the commercial value of leveraging such social media as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube as germane only to those businesses whose customers are consumers, known as B2C (business-to-consumer) firms in marketing parlance.
Sure, that makes sense. Why wouldn't a company like Coca-Cola, or AT&T, or Procter & Gamble, or Levi Strauss, or Apple, etc., not want to use every means conceivable to reach out to that most fickle of beings, the capitalist consumer? After all, weren't the very same sort of companies the ones that were first to launch websites and engage in email marketing 20 or more years ago?
More to the point, why did these and every other giant of consumerism embrace all these things from websites to Facebook and Twitter?
Word of mouth, or as the marketing types like to abbreviate it: WOM. Since the first entrepreneurial caveman started selling handy-dandy, ready-to-use flints, commercial enterprises of all types have relied on word of mouth to one degree or another to build business and to keep existing customers engaged with their brand.
That same need to reach new prospects and to keep in touch with old customers is just as crucial to a truck fleet as it is to other business-to-business (B2B) commercial operations. And those, of course, include all the suppliers out there who try to engage with your fleet operation via advertising in this magazine, or direct mail, or trade shows, or, increasingly, via social media as well.
The long and short of it all is that social media is just another tool with which to promote, grow and even protect your brand through various electronic versions of WOM interaction.
I asked rhetorically in this space in the February edition if trucking is about trucks. Better yet, I ask now, “Is a truck fleet about trucking?” To both queries, my answer is “no.” No, a truck fleet is not about its trucks or even that it hauls goods or performs services with its trucks. What a truck fleet is really all about is the people who get the job done day after day for customers, everyone from the driver right up to the CEO.
And that is what — or who in this case! — your customers want to know about you. Besides the bare facts of where you run, what you do and how much you charge, they want to feel “right” about hiring you and continuing to send you business, especially in what is today a buyer's market for trucking services.
Unless all the customers you will ever really need happen to work just down the pike from your HQ, there is no less expensive and potentially more effective way to reach them — and stay with them — than through social media. That is, if the social media outlets you choose to leverage are worked properly by you or a staffer, and that the leveraging is done both thoroughly and consistently.
Just as no truly professional organization would let its phones ring off the hook or leave its mail unopened, be extremely wary of launching a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other social media presence without keeping that presence up.
To be sure, if you build it, they will come. But if they get there and find you gone — that is to say, inactive or just too quiet — they may think your whole operation is. Then they will cruise right on down the Internet without nary a backward glance. And you won't know about it, if at all, until they are long gone.