Nationally renowned social media expert Peter Shankman is slated to speak to Georgia Southern students and local business owners on Saturday at the GSU Performing Arts Center. A noted author and entrepreneur, Shankman's message is titled "The Near-Future World of OneScreen."
At a time when consumers can tweet about customer service or post Facebook comments resulting in the elevation of brand loyalty or the decimation of it in 120 characters or less, Shankman, CEO of The Geek Factory, a public relations firm in New York City, advises companies to actively "listen" to their customer base and embrace social media to maintain customer loyalty.
From NASA to Sprint, and Walt Disney World to American Express, companies turn to Shankman when they need to understand how the worlds of social media, customer service, marketing, advertising, and public relations are merging into one.
Statesboro resident Jenny Lynn Anderson serves as the professional adviser to Georgia Southern's Public Relations Student Society of America. It was Anderson who booked Shankman for the society's regional event this Saturday - PRWhereUR .
"I subscribe to Shankman's 'Help a Reporter Out' queries each day which reaches 102,000 public relations professionals and journalists daily," Anderson said. "In one of his early morning queries which caught my attention, he wrote, 'How do you get in touch with me to speak at your event? Simply email or call.' That is what I did."
Not only does Anderson believe in Shankman's message, she has used his strategies in revamping the way Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home and Crematory communicates with its customers. As marketing director for the funeral home, Anderson was instrumental in the changes that the company has made over the last year with its website and social media presence.
"With eight out of every 10 adults in America carrying a mobile, handheld device, consumers want information instantaneously," said Anderson. "Traditional ways to disseminate information have quickly dissipated, and our website needed to provide compelling content which helped our families in time of need."
As an example, Anderson said now when someone writes a memorial tribute on the funeral home's web page, that tribute will automatically post to a user's Facebook wall via the funeral home's website if the person chooses this option.
"I find this to be one of the most powerful tools of our website," she said. "With over 500 million active users of Facebook, I envision the impact of our families sharing their memories beyond our website globally with their Facebook friends. One of the most important purposes of the funeral is to gather with family and friends and say,'This life was important. This life touched mine'."
Other local businesses have also jumped on the social media bandwagon. Mert Slaton, owner of Moe's restaurant in Statesboro, said they have instituted a rewards system whereby a customer enters their cell phone number into a hand held device near the cash register each time they eat there.
"This allows us to have a database by which to track customer loyalty and preferences, but equally as important, we now have a database of cell phone numbers which allows us to text customers and let them know instantaneously about specials," Slaton said.
Moe's general manager Mike Pung calls the text messages "Shout Outs."
"If we see that we are having a relatively slow day, we sit down and give a 'shout out' to our customers on their cell phones," he said. "Immediately, business picks up. All of a sudden the drive thru might have 10 cars in it. It is very powerful."
Pung said it is very easy to do. "I can do it from my laptop, sitting at a table in the restaurant," he said. "It usually is just a few words, like 'buy one burrito, get one free'."
Georgia Southern student Emily Grubbs just loves getting a 'shout out' from Moe's. "It is wonderful to know when I get that message, that I am going to get something for free," she said. "It just brightens my day, and I respond to it."
Taking their services a step further using social media, Joiner-Anderson is providing online grief support for its families.
"Families can register on the website and join a 'virtual group' for regular counseling sessions," Anderson said. "However, for families needing to express grief to someone in person, Dr. Jack Rainer, our grief and bereavement counselor, is available as a member of the Joiner-Anderson staff," she said.
Shankman is the author of a book titled "Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts that Work-And Why Your Company Needs Them." His presentation begins at 5 p.m. in the main auditorium of the GSU Performing Arts Center. Tickets for students are $15 apiece. Tickets for the general public are $30 each.
To learn more about Shankman, you can visit his website at www.shankman.com, or access his Facebook page.