When you are South African-born American business magnate Elon Musk, you don't have to listen to anyone. After all, the 46-year old, worth an estimated $21 billion, is the CEO of SpaceX; a co-founder, inventor, CEO product architect of Tesla Inc.; and co-founder and former chairman of Solar City and has his hands in half a dozen other business ventures.

Musk is a genius, and thus knows that it is worth his while to listen to what his customers, observers, critics and followers have to say. And he uses this information to his best advantage.

He has even been known to go onto Twitter, of all places, and listen to what his customers have to say. While some CEOs leave Twitter to their social media teams and others outright ignore the medium, Musk actually listens, responds, and uses the information to make improvements to Tesla's cars.

I've asked the Linkedin community for their opinion on products many times over the years, and their replies help me gauge which products might be good fits for my business. I've been able to get valuable information via A/B testing--and create relationships--with those followers who went on to become customers.

I've learned that I don't know everything--not that I ever assumed that I did. Especially in the beginning of building my business, I assumed that just because I liked a product, my customer base would. Wrong! Well, sometimes.

In the early days of Bikini Luxe, we only offered cheeky bikini bottoms and triangle tops without support. We learned, thanks to customer recommendations, that women all over the world have personal style tastes that far exceed what's popular in Miami, where we're based.

The same method that benefits Elon Musk can also help your small to medium-sized business connect with your customers. Here's how:

1. Spend some time online.

Your followers take the time to support you and to follow your brand. You can spend a little time to see firsthand what they are saying about you. Good or bad, it can be an eyeopener.

These are comments that may not make it to your marketing and research team. These are real comments from real users that have bought the product with their own hard-earned money, have used it, and taken the time to provide feedback.

Valuable? I think so.

2. Talk back.

Your customers won't expect it, but depending on the size of your company, they might be flabbergasted to find you online without your media team. They might be shocked, but you'll find that they will be pleased, and polite to find that you are taking an interest in what they are saying. They will likely be candid with you, and your presence might even renew their interest or their loyalty in your brand.

3. Take the time to say thank you.

Yes, a customer service rep thanks they when they buy from you online, or in person. That's not the same as hearing a thank you from the owner/CEO/founder of the company. Take some time to say a sincere (but not overly sappy) thank you to your loyal customers and followers.

4. Consider implementing their suggestions.

Nobody says that you have to adopt every half-thought out suggestion that pops up over social media. You're still the boss. But if a suggestion stands out to you, and genuinely seems like a good idea, write it down and bring it up with your team or think on it.

You never know when you can get an idea to improve one of your products. Don't worry that it didn't come from you or one of your team members. Your customers are the one using your products on the ground and they are bound to have some good suggestions.

I'm a strong believer that when it comes to social media you've got to be willing to do your part. So many people post and sit back and wait for results. Get in there, get your hands dirty, and have some fun while you're at it.

Published on: Jan 22, 2018
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