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The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 10, 2013 • Issue 13:06:01

Street SmartsSM

MLSs forging right ahead in social media

By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.

It should come as no surprise that ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) are adept at social media. After all, electronic technology has always been the centerpiece of our business.

Let's not forget that we MLSs were among the first to enter the apps race. We were adding gift, loyalty, bill-pay and a slew of other value-added programs to credit card terminals before anyone even heard of an Ethernet cable. Is it fair to say that social media is just one example of how MLSs are driving early adoption of emerging technologies in the merchant community? Based on a recent discussion in GS Online's MLS Forum, I believe the answer is yes. I also found multiple examples to support this view.

This article contains a sampling of how MLSs are leveraging social technology to deepen their relationships with merchants while also helping merchants engage with their customers.

Build retention

CLEARENT wrote, "Where I see social media helping though is in merchant retention. By encouraging your merchant base to friend the site, you can provide them with valuable information as well as stay in contact with them. This alone improves retention - as they have a 'link' (in a fashion) to their partner."

Establish an Internet presence

MBRUNO sees social media as a way to stake out a territory and position his brand as a trusted resource in the merchant community. He made the following points:

    "1. It's important to have a page on most or all social media [SM] sites if for no other reason than to stop a competitor from grabbing your name and damaging your brand.

    "2. The impact for signing new merchants only from SM is questionable at best. For merchants you are actively prospecting, it can add a layer of creditability if your sites look nice and have coherent messages - it likely won't get you new merchants alone, but in conjunction with your normal marketing efforts, it can help.

    "3. The impact with existing clients can be seen readily [when you use] social media to promote a dialogue regarding your product/services. Engagement often leads to higher loyalty and a sense of community - which is what SM is really all about anyway.

    "4. Ensuring a consistent message across all SM platforms is also important. Your FB page should provide the same messages as your homepage, Twitter feed, etc. This can be problematic when updating/changing something about your offerings.

    "For example, let's say you add a new POS system to your services - you'll have to log in to individual SM sites and make those updates individually. It sounds silly, but keeping a record of all the sites and the last date they were updated is an incredibly valuable tool.

    "5. Link all your social media sites together via links when possible. They can help with SEO for one, but it also helps your clients find information faster.

    "6. SM does not replace other marketing - it's an add-on."

Focus on relationships

TMIGROUP sees social media as a useful tool for building deeper and more meaningful relationships with his merchant customers.

He wrote, "[T]he importance of connecting with your community and as many potential customers and clients possible cannot be overstated.

The way in which you establish these relationships can be done in so many ways, which is what makes businesses unique and the brand or service experience special to the customers.

"Without needing to be said, a business that is attempting to reach customers' needs to get directly involved within the community for its efforts to be as effective as possible."

Foster community

One effective way to build and maintain multiple merchant relationships is by developing an online community. TMIGROUP wrote, "[T]here is also another great avenue that companies can utilize to engage their clients in an interesting, interactive, informative and entertaining way.

"Ironically, this technique is what I'm using right now as I write this blog." (For details, see www.paypromedia.com/2013/03/19/how-to-engage-with-your-online-community.)

Build brand awareness

As merchants become more active in online communities and discussion threads, inevitably they begin to ask how they can improve their own brand positioning in the virtual community.

TMIGROUP wrote, "A general question concerning all businesses is, 'How can I increase brand awareness?' The main reasons businesses want to increase brand awareness are to gain new customers, keep loyal customers, and enable customers to have confidence in what they are buying.

"It doesn't matter if it's a two-person boutique or a 1,000-employee corporation, building brand awareness is one of the most valuable marketing strategies. So how do companies get their brand out to the public?

"Brand awareness can be developed in many ways. Some of the most effective and common tools to power brand awareness are portable signage, organic search engine visibility - like Google, Yahoo, or Bing - and the newest social media - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

"All of these techniques have led to great results in obtaining clients and reaching out to the community, state, nation and world."

Strengthen professional credibility

It's a good idea to maintain a professional tone in your postings on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks. You don't have to be serious all the time. You can be playful while keeping a professional tone and demeanor.

BILLPIRTLE wrote, "One suggestion I have for people using social media is to decide how personal you choose to get. One agent I know of has ranted on Facebook in favor of political agendas that his customers would object to. He reported that he did not have his clients as friends on Facebook.

"I tend to allow anyone to connect with me on Facebook and LinkedIn because of my products and realize that I cannot rant on political topics as they are likely to turn off up to half of my potential clients.

"Having no social media presence can be bad for your business, but being careless about the messages you send out can really damage your brand.

"[My g]ood friend Social Media Guru Michael Angelo Caruso has one simple rule for Facebook: Keep social posts to business posts at about a 10-1 ratio to avoid turning off prospects.

"If you just try to sell, you will lose people right and left. Give information when you can and even send funny non-offensive pics along. If you are a walking commercial on Facebook, it is like someone trying to sign up his friends at a barbecue."

Go above and beyond the POS

While social media is impacting our world in myriad ways, it's clear that MLSs are modeling how to use these technologies to gain customer loyalty in ways that go far beyond the POS. end of article

Dale Laszig is a writer and payments industry executive specializing in business development and sales performance improvement. She manages channel sales at Castles Technology and sales effectiveness programs through IMPAX Corp. and C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or dale_laszig@castechusa.com.

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