Beyond Customers

Social media has reached a fevered pitch in most places, but as a marketing it has many unique functional features and almost endless possibilities.

Take Brad Culp, a operator for Griswold Special Care, a non-medical homecare referral service. He's using social media but not to reach his customers.

"Referral sources such as social workers, nurses, and attorneys are very important to me. They are the ones observing the need, the ones I count on to describe the service we can provide our clients in their homes. I discovered that many of these referral sources were on Facebook and Plaxo so I quickly determined I needed to be there too."

Culp says his number-one priority with tools like Facebook and Plaxo is to stay connected with his referral sources. For the two to three dozen sources he stays in regular contact with, he says, using these tools "allows me to put a personal touch on my marketing." He tracks their birthdays, sends greetings, and keeps in touch with their lives online, allowing him to connect on a more personal basis. For example, he'll read a post by a care provider who has been on and written about it on her Facebook page. "The next time I see her at the hospital I can say, 'How was your vacation?' and we begin to chat. It's building relationships."

He's also taking advantage of the ability to mine the friends of friends on Facebook, he says. "If I'm a 'friend' of Linda and I know that she works with Joni, I can try to reach out and 'friend' Joni."

For Culp, social media will never replace the importance of face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, and email, but he says it's a great addition. After about a year of social networking, he guesses that he'll soon be adding Twitter to his online relationship-building toolkit and is already thinking about ways he might implement that tool.

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