Somewhere between The Drudge Report, Alexa, and Mashable, I was poking around on Chris Brogan's blog and found out about FreshBooks.
I happened to be doing some pre-reading as Chris was coming to Cleveland for a speech. I also was looking for a decent, and hopefully free, invoicing solution. I'm a niche sort of guy - I'll take the corner coffee shop over Starbucks (don't read that as me being anti-Starbucks, though), I'll take a Sherpa jacket over a NorthFace fleece and I can tell you I definitely prefer FreshBooks over larger, what I'll refer to as 'corporate,' invoicing software.
FreshBooks, as online invoicing software, has a lot to offer. What converted me into their customer, however, was not their powerful software, but rather the relationship building effort FreshBooks put forth once I registered with their site.
I Registered, and Then It Happened...
Soon after I signed-up, I received quite an uncommon email from FreshBooks. I'm certainly used to receiving registration confirmations in a standard auto-generated format. Instead, what I received, was an email with the following subject line: "FreshBooks is run by real people."
This email, naturally, caused me pause. If there was a thought bubble caricatured above my head - it would've emphatically stated - "WOW!" Here is a real person emailing me and wanting to learn how he can help me, how he can learn more about what I do. I was impressed. I was hooked
And It Happened Again...
Additionally, I received a follow up call from Jon Spenceley, Product Zen and Small Business Consultant at Freshbooks. Jon was the same, real, person who initially had sent me the email. Jon simply wanted to have a conversation with me. Very quickly, a need that I had for online invoicing became, from my perspective, a personal relationship with a company, that 1) valued me and 2) wanted to know what I was thinking.
When I Tweeted about Freshbook's multi-currency update - I soon found that Freshbooks was following me on Twitter. I understand this is likely the result of listening software, but coupled with emails and phone calls from real folks, it really supported my engagement with FreshBooks as a company.
This, in a nutshell, is the long tail of social media. It's the social media ecosystem if you will. How many other small businesses are reaching out to their niche markets, using a variety of tools like Twitter, email, and blogs to extend their reach and, more importantly, make their reach more impactful by generating more business?
Read About It, Try It, Become a Customer...Repeat
It's the social media ecosystem - I read about invoicing software on a social media blog, I try it, and become a customer. Real people from the company reach out to me and want to learn about me and how I use their software. I'm so pleased with the software and the service that now I'm Tweeting and blogging about it. That's how it works - it's earned media. Although I'm a podunk, non-paying customer, the intent and hope is that my unconditional positive regard for FreshBooks, will in a very real sense, pay it forward for FreshBooks.
How many companies are engaged and aware of the social media's long tail and ecosystem like FreshBooks is? I'm not sure, but the power of a happy and engaged customer certainly has a multiplier effect (as does the power of an unhappy customer). All companies, large and small, should realize how powerful this multiplier effect can be.
What other companies are engaged in the social media ecosystem like FreshBooks is? What companies aren't?