Empathy & Social Media – This Combo could be an Online Business Secret Weapon

Written on September 10, 2008 – 8:05 am | by Shana Albert |

Photo by LifeHouseDesign

Empathy is the ability to understand the depth of another person’s feelings. Empathy comes through conversation and building relationships. Empathy is something that our parents and grandparents showed us how to feel, relate, respect and love others. It is very important for any business to have Empathy, but it should not be absent from the Online Business.

Absence of Empathy in an Online Business could cause Failure. That statement might seem ridiculous to you, but it is a strong possibility. And, do you know why? Because empathy earns a potential customer’s trust. Without trust you have no customers. Without Customers…. you have no orders.

Of course, there are other reasons why a customer purchases online. Such as…

  • Convenience – not having to leave the house
  • Ease – Product is shipped right to your door or to someone
    else’s door if it a gift.
  • Out of the ordinary products – Find products that you couldn’t
    easily find locally

But even if an Online Store has the ability to do all three of the above things…. without trust the customer will go elsewhere.

Empathy Builds Trust

Remember, Empathy is the ability to understand the depth of another person’s feelings. Our Local Businesses have been doing this for years…. with Salespeople. The really great salespeople will let you know that he or she cares about what you are going through, the problem that has brought you to their store today, and how they will make sure they make your life easier before you leave their store. If at any point you felt that the store or sales person was untrustworthy or not sincere you would leave. So, his sincerity is extremely important.

The same applies to eCommerce and Online Businesses. But, How do we add empathy into an eCommerce or Online Business? After all, unlike an actual physical place of business an eCommerce business has no face-face contact. How the heck can you hold conversations…. let alone earn their trust through Empathy? How, as an Online Business, do we get customers to realize that we understand them…. that we can relate with what they are going through?

Build a Relationship through Social Media

Earn Trust Through Empathy

Social Media is basically online Conversations. These conversations might happen on different mediums, but they happen online. As an Online Business you need to start participating in Social Media activities so that you can build relationships with your potential customers….. so you can build trust.

Let me give you an example of how Social Media can aid in offering Empathy Online

I’m going to use an example of a desperate mom looking for a colic remedy for her child. If you ever had an infant that suffers from Colic you will know that not only is the baby very uncomfortable, but the baby will express their pain in the form of screaming… screaming that lasts hours. These parents are usually super tired and extremely desperate to find safe and effective help…. quickly!!

Colic Baby
Photo by bbaunach

Now, let’s say that this Mom checks online and finds a static website that sells Baby Colic Remedies. If you ever had a baby with colic you know the desperation parents feel to find something that will work…. something that will offer relief to the baby and peace to the parents. But, they also need to trust the vendor to provide a product that they can trust not only to work, but also be safe for their baby. This particular static eCommerce site has very nice pictures of the product, very informative descriptions of what the product does, and a “easy to use” secure online shopping cart. But, the customer still feels unsure whether this particular product is the right one for her baby. She is tired, nervous and she needs to be reassured that this is what she should purchase. She searches for testimonials and she finds them easily on the site, but how does she know these are real testimonials and not false made up ones. She wishes she could speak to a real customer or another mother who went through what she was going through right now…. Someone that could empathize with her.

She remembers that she belongs to a Parent Support Group Online and decides to touch base with them and ask them their thoughts. They point her in the direction of a blog where a “real life mom” writes about her battles with Colic herself. She explains what works and what doesn’t. The Mom blogger shows pictures of her happy baby and tells tales of how horrible it can be to have an uncomfortable and colicky baby. Even though this Mom wasn’t trying to sell anything she earned this desperate woman’s trust. Almost as if they were at a “play group” sharing colic stories and the mom told her to go out and buy “gripe water”. But, they have never met. Instead through Social Media the desperate mommy felt the blogging mommy’s empathy towards what she was going through. And, the desperate mommy went out on a mission to purchase “gripe water” for her baby.

This blogger earns her trust. How? By communicating using Empathy. By being real and with sharing she earned the readers trust.

Now since the original colic website sells “gripe water” that the blogger raved about, I suppose it is possible that the Mom will go back to the original website to make that purchase. But, because the original website couldn’t build the Mom’s trust with empathy it is extremely possible the the first site lost this Mom’s order forever.

If Only the Static Website had a Blog

But, imagine if that original website had a blog. This blog could be written by mothers…. Mothers who have a baby battling colic. Or perhaps a mom that survived the months of her baby having colic and lived to tell her heroic story online. The desperate mom might not have ever left the first website in search of trust… she could have found it right there.

The thing that got the customer was not only “The Word of Mouth” from friends online, but it was the empathy. It was the feeling in the blog post she read… she felt the mom’s desperation from another “human being”. She could relate, she blelieved… She trusted!! It was the human conversation that got her. The relationship. The blogger earned her trust.

Things you can do to add Empathy to your Business

  • Add a Blog – First things first… add a blog. Make sure
    to write with Emotion. Be passionate with your writing. If your readers feel your passion, your care, your concern they might become customers and probably will pass around your blog to other people with the same concerns.
  • Comment on Blogs in your Niche – Offer advice, tips and answer questions.
  • Knowledge-Sharing Communities – (like Yahoo Answers) By participating in these types of communities and answering questions and giving people helpful advice you could eventually come an known expert in your field.
  • Forums and Message Boards – Answer people’s questions and offer advice…. this too can lead to becoming a known expert in your field.
  • Set up a Twitter Account – Microblogging is a great way to communicate with others in your niche. Again, offer advice and tips. Twitter is also a great way to notify others of new blog posts.
  • Set up Instant Messaging on your Website – This way customers can contact you if needed. This is a great way to build trust with potential customers. They can ask you questions and even if they don’t have any for you it lets the customers know that they could contact you if need be.
  • Images – Images are great for products, but how about using them to show emotion. Do you sell swimming pool toys? Well instead of only using product pictures…. take pictures of children using the toys…. of laughing and playing with the toys. Create a Flickr account with your business name and post your pictures on there.
  • Videos – This is an awesome way to show your readers/clients/customers that you care… that you are real…. that you empathize. Make video of your products being used. Or, produce how to videos on your website. You can even make a weekly video show where you perform a 15 how-to class on your products. The things you can do with video to aid with empathy for a Online Business is almost endless.

I feel that there is no beautiful advertisement in the World that will be as trustworthy as a family member, friend or passionate person who has lived through it. In my opinion Word-of-Mouth trumps regular advertising. If someone real and trustworthy says to me, “Try this Product… It Rocks!!”. Well, then I will probably will be trying that product. However, if an advertisement says, “Try this Product…. it Rocks!!” (this being a different product than what the “word of mouth” suggested) it’s only a possibility I might try the advertised product first.

Empathy is natural…. we’ve been doing it for as long as we realized that other people had emotions just like we do. And, as a business person you need to master this skill. To aid in this ask yourself a few questions:

  • If I was the customer how would I be feeling?
  • If I was the person arriving at my site… what would I be hoping to see?
  • What kind of proof would I want to see to prove that the product I’m selling is the one I need?

Basically, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. How would they be feeling when they come to you. You need to understand that before being able to offer empathy to them.

Bottom line as a Business Owner you need business. You want more business?? Be empathetic…… do you want a platform to be empathetic and add conversation to your business plan?? Add Social Media. And, most importantly…

Share your experiences, be real and honest, add emotion, be empathetic….. Make a Difference!!

Empathy & Social Media together…. This Combo could be an Online Business Secret Weapon.

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  1. 18 Responses to “Empathy & Social Media – This Combo could be an Online Business Secret Weapon”

  2. By Kara on Sep 10, 2008 | Reply

    Excellent concept. The important thing about empathy is that it is delivered with sincerity-or else it comes off as more of a manipulative strategy. Great ideas here!

  3. By Dr. Pete on Sep 10, 2008 | Reply

    Some great thoughts, and I completely agree. I think the other word you use that is extremely important is “sincerity”. You have to sincerely want to understand your customers, not just trick them by making them feel good. In my own usability work, a key component of successful clients is the sincere desire to understand their customers and serve them better.

  4. By Shana Albert on Sep 10, 2008 | Reply

    @Kara – I totally agree…. Sincerity is very important. If you are not sincere your readers and customers will pick up on that and you won’t earn any trust…. and you won’t be deserving of their trust. Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment.

    @Dr. Pete – “…a key component of successful clients is the sincere desire to understand their customers and serve them better.” I could not have said that any better myself. Brilliant. Thank you so much for leaving a comment. 🙂

  5. By Florida Search Engine Optimization on Sep 10, 2008 | Reply

    Fantastic Post Shana …

    without trust the customer will go elsewhere.

    Bottom line.

  6. By 100dollarsdaily on Sep 10, 2008 | Reply

    Yes Shana, you’re so right!

    People are looking for someone that listens to their current problem, take time to discuss with them and provide a solution or even better several solutions to chose from.

    This is IMO the only way to do affiliation marketing successfully!

    To Your Success!

  7. By Tanner (does Utah marketing) on Sep 10, 2008 | Reply

    As always, thanks for sharing your insight Shana. I think that a lot of businesses have forgotten about empathy, but I also think that the internet is opening a lot of eyes (especially with the help of social media).

  8. By Shana Albert on Sep 10, 2008 | Reply

    @Florida Search – So true!! Thank you…. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.

    @100dollarsdaily – As consumers that is what we want…. want we need. As Business owners we must put ourselves in the consumers shoes. Thank you so much for the compliment.

    @Tanner – Yes, it gets forgotten too often, but I believe you are right…. with social media it is going to make business more personal. It is going to build customer/vendor relationships…. bottom line it will build trust. 🙂

  9. By Samir Balwani on Sep 15, 2008 | Reply

    Very compelling concept. It’s true, a blog is integral especially if it can make you more trustworthy. Using your blog to connect with your readers is a major part of why every company should have one.

  10. By 100dollarsdaily on Sep 15, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Shana,

    Thank you so much for the compliment.
    >> You’re welcome!

    Hi samir,

    Using your blog to connect with your readers is a major part of why every company should have one.
    >> In fact no tool to connect to your audience should be neglect as long as time & money allow you to do so!


  11. By Lenen on Sep 19, 2008 | Reply

    Shana, great article and I think you’re right. We need trust, to define our lives and businesses.

  12. By Webconomist on Oct 3, 2008 | Reply

    This is one of the best SMedia entries I’ve read in a while. Superb and thanks for sharing!

    I think too that empathy shown through sincerity also provides “evidence” down the road of a company’s desire to engage with clients. Win for everyone.

  13. By Shana Albert on Oct 3, 2008 | Reply

    @Samir Balwani – “Using your blog to connect with your readers is a major part of why every company should have one.”….. exactly my point. Thanks for the comment, Samir. 🙂

    @Lenen – I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for leaving the comment.

    @Webconomist – “I think too that empathy shown through sincerity also provides “evidence” down the road of a company’s desire to engage with clients. Win for everyone.” …. Absolutely!! I couldn’t have said that any better myself. 🙂 Thanks for the comment, Webconomist and for the write-up on your blog regarding my post.

  14. By South Florida SEO on Jun 5, 2010 | Reply

    Great post Shana.. I like your post, this fitted to those businesses who do not value customer and to those salespeople who do are sincere to their customers.

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