What Fourth Grade Math Word Problems Can Teach You About Using Social Media To Serve Your Customers

While helping my daughter with her 4th grade word problems this afternoon, it occurred to me that the process she must follow the get a correct answer to a word problem is similar to the process small business owners must follow to use social media to help a customer get an answer to their questions or problems.

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It really boils down to these 4 things:

  1. Read. My daughter's inclination is to skim the problem, jump to the end, and answer quickly so she can go outside and play. I reminded her to simply read the problem first. Just read it to get an overview of what it was all about. Get the details in a minute, but first, just read the problem.

    The social media corollary is to read blog posts and articles about how the social media tool you want to use is meant to be used, and how other small businesses are using it. I'm amazed at how many people skip this step and start blasting information and friend requests without even doing a Google search to get basic information about how a service works.

  2. Listen. In the case of a fourth grade word problem, after my daughter reads the problem to get the big picture, it's time to focus on what information the problem is providing. Does Johnny have 6 balls? Does Susie have two triangles? How many parallelograms are there? By internalizing the information contained in the problem, my daughter will see a picture begin to develop. I encourage her to draw an illustration. Visuals can be so helpful.

    The social media corollary is to listen to what people are telling you on Twitter, FaceBook, etc. What are their interests? Their problems? What matters to them? What makes them happy? What angers them? What makes their lives better? What makes them worse? Listen to your customers and prospects so you can learn about them.

  3. What's being asked generally? The next step in our word problem journey is to determine generally what is being asked of you. In my daughter's case, this means identifying how many questions she has to answer, and focusing in on what they are. Does she have to provide a number answer, or a word answer? Does it have to be provided in any special format?

    The social media corollary is to listen to your customers's questions. Whether they are asking you or someone else, listen carefully to the questions. Now, you know everything you need to know to serve your them.

  4. What's being asked of you? (Subtle difference from Question 3.) Answer the questions. I reminded my daughter not to answer the questions she wanted to answer, or the questions she should have been asked, or the questions she thinks she's being asked. I told her to be crystal clear — answer the precise questions she is being asked.

    The social media corollary is to provide your customers with answers to their questions, solutions to their problems. Don't give them what you think they want, or what they should be asking for, or what you think they should be asking for — try to give them exactly what they are asking for.

If you've done a fairly decent job of reading to educate yourself and of listening to what you are being told and of listening to what's being asked of you, you are then positioned to deliver results.

And that's how you use social media to serve you customers.

Question: What do you think?

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.