What the US Navy Can Teach Small Local Businesses About Social Media

by Joanne Steele on September 6, 2011

I’ve been spending a lot of time studying the benefits of social media as I put the finishing touches on scripts for the second module of Take Control of Your Internet Marketing.

In this second module all the lessons will be about carefully targeting your Perfect Customer – the customer you wish you had 100 or 1000 more just like – and listening for him or her online.

Learning how to listen is the first step in becoming a social media expert

Admiral Gary Roughead

Read about Admiral Roughead's speech, “Time, Tide and the Net Wait for No One: Leadership in the New Media Environment” below.

Listening and responding are the two most valuable aspects of social media. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized a business owner’s opportunity to reach a customer in this way.

Never before could a business owner “hear” the conversations among customers and prospective customers about their products and services, and be able to join the conversation.

Never before could a business owner get notice in real time of a customer’s need for immediate service and action.

Never before could a business owner deliver a solution and offer an apology that sits right beside a complaint or negative review.

All these responses result from a robust campaign of listening.

You might find yourself paraphrasing Adm. Arleigh Burke, who in the early ’20s, was known to have made the comment that, “Going to sea used to be fun. And then they gave us radios.”

Are you finding yourself thinking, “Being in business used to be fun, and then someone invented the internet!”?

If the US Navy can learn how to listen online, so can you

Brian Solis at PR2.0 published the full text of a speech by Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead titled, “Time, Tide and the Net Wait for No One: Leadership in the New Media Environment”

This speech is a good rundown on how the Navy is using the web to listen. And every bit of this is something small business owners can and should be doing.

Yes, the web and social media can be used as a good recruiting tool. Read how the Navy does it and copy their successful techniques for attracting customers to your business.

Yes, the web and social media can help you get real time information about a crisis. For them the crisis may be huge, like the Japanese tsunami. But a crisis where a dissatisfied customer is shooting off his mouth all over Facebook or Yelp could have tsunami scale consequences for your business.

Yes, if the US Navy can change its thinking about privacy and control of the message, so can every small business owner. The internet and social media was tailor-made for small locally owned businesses

I know that for many of you small local business owners, your first response might be, “Of course the Navy can do that! They have unlimited resources to devote to listening and responding on social media!”

The reality is that embracing social media is a huge leap for a closed, top down command structure like the US Navy. It is a baby step for a small local business used to direct interaction with customers, effective responsive collaboration within a community, and a culture of listening and responding to customers.

All you have to do is transfer your skills and strengths to a new medium – the internet and social media.

Time is certainly a factor, and hopefully we’ll be able to give you some help with that in the next few months. But if a cost-benefit analysis has the whole structure and culture of a military organization changing to adapt to the new reality, surely small local businesses can take a baby step to transfer what they already do well to a new medium.

As Admiral Roughead stated, “Certainly there are going to be more changes that are coming; I believe we are just scratching the surface right now.”

You’re small. You are nimble.

Social media is your cherry pie! Add a scoop of ice cream and dig in!



Previous post:

Next post: