When You Listen, Customers Listen Back

Eric BrownRecently, BusinessWeek asked readers to submit their nominations for the “Voices of Innovation” in social media. Out of all the names that were submitted, they choose four individuals to profile, including Scott Monty from Ford, Beth Kanter from the Sharing Foundation and Noah Brier from Brand Tags.

The fourth person profiled was Eric Brown, President of Urbane Apartments. (Full disclosure: Urbane Apartments is a 30 Lines client.)

Now I could easily stop there, cheering for Eric and 30 Lines, saying, “Woo hoo, look at our client in BusinessWeek.” But that’s not the point of this post.

Who is listening?

When you get to the end of the article, you can see the comments left by other readers … this is where it gets good. The first comment came from Mark Juleen, another apartment marketer who works for a company in Indianapolis. (Eric’s business is in the Detroit area.) Mark says:

Eric has been a great pioneer not only for social media in the apartment industry, but for changing the stigma of the term “landlord”. It’s not just an apartment at Urbane, it’s an experience…

A nice compliment from a fellow apartment industry professional, no doubt.

But it’s the next comment that shows Eric is deserving of the recognition given to him in the article. It comes from John McCarthy, one of Eric’s residents. Remember, this is the second comment made on a BusinessWeek article:

I live in one of Eric’s Urbane apartments and can vouch for the community feel he has created. A large part of it is his use of social media. I really like the ability to follow on Facebook what is going on with Urbane.

Not a bad sales pitch, eh? It’s only one resident out of hundreds, but it’s a pretty good indicator that Eric’s customers like doing business with him.

Eric himself then chimes in, leaving a comment that thanks BusinessWeek, Mark and John for their respective contributions. He puts himself in the middle of the conversation, acknowledges each person for their input and feedback and lets everyone else know that he really is engaged. He seems like a guy you might want to do business with. Heck, he seems like a guy you might want to have a beer with.

The point is that it’s not enough to have a presence in social media. Setting up a Twitter account or a Facebook profile is only the first step. You won’t benefit from these tools if you’re not willing to put yourself out there (or “stand outside in your underwear” in Eric’s terms). If you are finding ways to communicate with and engage your customers, they’ll notice that you’re listening and that you care. They start listening back. And when you’re able to have real conversations with customers that listen back, that’s when your business can really start getting interesting. I’m not sure how innovative that concept truly is, but clearly it’s working for Eric, Scott and the others profiled in the article.

Do you customers listen back? What has it meant for your business? Who else would make your list of social media innovators?

Mike Whaling

Pay attention to your customers ... most of the time, they know more about your brand than you do.

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  • http://www.homeisjchart.com Mark Juleen

    This is a great story. I thought it was great that a resident took the time to comment. Kudos to Eric again for a job well done. The only injustice from the article is calling Eric a “Landlord”. Especially in the title. His title comes nowhere close to that.

    Enjoy your day!

    Mj

  • http://www.homeisjchart.com Mark Juleen

    This is a great story. I thought it was great that a resident took the time to comment. Kudos to Eric again for a job well done. The only injustice from the article is calling Eric a “Landlord”. Especially in the title. His title comes nowhere close to that.

    Enjoy your day!

    Mj

  • http://www.apartmentveteran.com/ Eric Brown

    Mike, Good Morning,
    A big thank you to both you and Mark, much appreciated. And a big thank you to 30Lines for making all our back office architecture stuff work for all the crazy ideas we dream up at Urbane, you are the best.

    The point I really want to impress here about this is,I had no idea you were writing this blog post. Perhaps you would have alerted me or not. THIS is the other side of Social Media, someone was talking about us, AND because of some simple alerts that picked it up, I knew it.

    The phrase “What Happens in Vegas, Stays on Google” is so very true, and it is paramount to know when folks are talking about you, because it usually IS NOT good. I also want to point out though, that is the Hidden Gem, when you Participate in the Conversation, you are granted the opportunity to transition a complaint into an evangelist with practice.

  • http://www.apartmentveteran.com/ Eric Brown

    Mike, Good Morning,
    A big thank you to both you and Mark, much appreciated. And a big thank you to 30Lines for making all our back office architecture stuff work for all the crazy ideas we dream up at Urbane, you are the best.

    The point I really want to impress here about this is,I had no idea you were writing this blog post. Perhaps you would have alerted me or not. THIS is the other side of Social Media, someone was talking about us, AND because of some simple alerts that picked it up, I knew it.

    The phrase “What Happens in Vegas, Stays on Google” is so very true, and it is paramount to know when folks are talking about you, because it usually IS NOT good. I also want to point out though, that is the Hidden Gem, when you Participate in the Conversation, you are granted the opportunity to transition a complaint into an evangelist with practice.

  • http://30lines.com Mike Whaling

    Mark, I also think it says a lot that you took the time to comment on the article. It shows that Eric is doing something worth paying attention to, and it’s evidence of the fact that you are leading J.C. Hart down a similar path.

    Eric, thanks for the kudos. It’s exciting to work for clients like you that not only “get it,” but are also willing to put themselves out there for all their customers to see. I’m looking forward to seeing where all of this takes us, my friend.

  • http://30lines.com Mike Whaling

    Mark, I also think it says a lot that you took the time to comment on the article. It shows that Eric is doing something worth paying attention to, and it’s evidence of the fact that you are leading J.C. Hart down a similar path.

    Eric, thanks for the kudos. It’s exciting to work for clients like you that not only “get it,” but are also willing to put themselves out there for all their customers to see. I’m looking forward to seeing where all of this takes us, my friend.