Adopting Social Media for Your Business (from Catalog Success Magazine)

Last week, I offered a request to my readers to post their comments regarding their adoption of social media. Based upon the results of a recent poll we conducted at (click here), many of you aren’t jumping on the bandwagon, as compared with pure-play e-retailers and other Internet marketers.

While I’m a bit disappointed about this — both the lack of adoption of social media and response to my column — I believe there’s a huge opportunity at hand to take our multichannel industry to the next level.

So let me ask you this: What’s your level of social media adoption? Blogs? Message boards? Video? Sites like Facebook? Let’s get a dialogue going on this.

I understand things are a mess out there business-wise, but we need to start operating on the following premise: If you listen, they will come. 

For now, I hope to inspire you with a story from another industry.

Recently, I had the opportunity to do business with a truly customer-centric organization. Every year I take a cruise in January. Within one week of my return, I received a 58-question (yes, that’s not a typo, I did say 58-question) survey from the travel company that puts on the cruise.  

Now to set the background a bit, this isn’t just any cruise. It’s a specialty music cruise called Jam Cruise ( Think Mardi Gras or Woodstock on a luxury Italian cruise liner, with live bands playing night and day.

The survey sets the stage for the following year’s cruise. It asks questions about the bands, the ports, the service, the food and all of the extras they provide, to determine both what they can do better and what their customers would like to see happen in the future.  

In addition, the company has a message board it constantly monitors. Since the day the cruise ended, the message board has been lit up like a Christmas tree. Posts on the board range from super positive to super negative (the negatives were mostly about the food, which was “off” this year, and the process of getting on the ship, which didn’t go as planned). As to the negative comments, I was very pleased to see that the Jam Cruise staff made its presence felt and offered apologies and explanations.  

Like I’ve said before, if you want to use social media as a marketing tool, be prepared to handle both the positive and the negative. In fact, how you handle negative feedback will help get you customers for life.  

Your Key Takeaway
Your customers are the ones who should drive your business. Social media means you have to work harder at serving your customers, but the rewards are greater customer loyalty and lifetime value.

Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing, a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at or you can post a comment here or e-mail him at You can also follow Jim on Twitter at

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