Q&A: Bernard Perrine, CEO & cofounder, Hiplogiq

Bernard Perrine, CEO and cofounder of social marketing technology company HipLogiq, on why social media isn’t just for the big boys.

Q: Customer engagement—why is it so important to small and midsize businesses?

A: To be the most successful it can be an SMB needs to be more actively engaged with its consumers because the shop next door is also going to be doing that. Consumers downloaded 98 million coupons in 2012. Facebook is only seven years old and there are a billion social profiles in the U.S., even though there are only 350 million people. That’s because people have a LinkedIn profile, they have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others.

Each one of those profiles presents a way that wasn’t available before to reach consumers. Consumer engagement isn’t just for the Cokes or the Fords of the world, it’s also for the coffee shop or the hair salon to be able to communicate directly with people who have purchasing intent and then offer them a call-to-action to get them engaged.

Q: How can SMBs harness the power of social—just as much as the big guys?

A: Consumers expect big things from big brands. But what they want from the neighborhood coffee shop is a local relationship, a collegial feel you get from being part of a community. Because when you think about social media, that’s exactly what it is: a community. You only follow people you think are interesting or can add value. Social media allows you to actually communicate directly with people in a community in real time based on their interest in your product or service.

Q: Why is technology for technology’s sake never the answer?

A: What some technologists will do is try to instill fear and uncertainty into the minds of business owners so they can sell their products. But a business has to be able to monetize on their investment. What they’re using has to be clear and easily understood and add value to their business, or they shouldn’t introduce it.

Q: If brands aren’t engaging in social listening, are they leaving money on the table?

A: Everybody knows in the back of their mind that they have to do it. It’s a value proposition. Frankly, it’s about making money. I’m not just a coffee shop—I’m a coffee shop that wants you to come in my front door, and I need to give you an incentive to do that. And once you do, because you’re in a social community, you’ll share that experience with your friends, no matter what demographic you’re in.

Q: As one of the original founders of Kinko’s and a former Kodak exec, what do you think is the role of direct mail today?

A: You might get two cups of coffee every day, but you only buy one mattress every eight years, and you do exhaustive research on which one to buy. Content plays an enormously valuable role in a case like that. If [marketers are] reaching out to consumers with conventional media, [they] have to hope [they’re] getting people who are in the market for a mattress and people who haven’t just bought one a year go. But if someone complains about having a bad back to their friends on social media, you can assume this person might need a mattress and if the brand is listening, it can react to that. It’s the most targeted medium from an outreach standpoint anywhere today.

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