The BBB Social Media

By Katelyn Cross and Carlton Lentini

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is an authoritative consumer source for business information that upholds high standards for ethical marketplace behavior.   It is the preeminent resource to turn to for objective, unbiased information on businesses and charities, according to its website. Consumers and businesses alike can rely on the help of the BBB for all their purchasing and donating needs.

The BBB was founded in 1912 and currently serves 116 communities across the U.S. and Canada. It is presently evaluating and monitoring more than 3 million local and national businesses and charities in these two countries. The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) is the hub for all BBBs in the US and Canada. The Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus is the hub for all fourteen Canadian BBBs.

Overall, the BBB prides itself on trust that encompasses two factors – integrity and performance. Integrity, according to the BBB, includes respect, ethics and intent. Performance entails business reputation and track record of results and customer satisfaction. Businesses who are accredited with the BBB have agreed to live up to the BBB standards of trust. However, before becoming accredited, businesses must meet the requirements of the BBBs Code of Business Practices. The code consists of eight principles: 1. Build trust, 2. Advertise honestly, 3. Tell the truth, 4. Be Transparent, 5. Honor promises, 6. Be responsive, 7. Safeguard privacy and 8. Embody integrity.

The Better Business Bureau compares all business against the BBBs set standards, not against other like businesses. This allows both the BBB and consumers to be unbiased when looking into businesses. Their mission is to simply state the facts, based on the accreditation standards, and relay them to the public so that they can use the information to make educated decisions

The Better Business Bureau utilizes several tools to maximize B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) relationships. One of the most effective ways to connect with consumers is through the use of social media. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ have provided the BBB with the means to connect, respond and react to consumer’s questions.

Through the use of social media the BBB can alert the public of business scams, giving them the ability report potential scams for further investigation. Social media allows for instant conversations between the employees of the BBB and the consumers who are using their accreditation information. In general, social media has become a valuable asset for this organization.

We sat down with two BBB Boston chapter employees, Vinicius Sant’Anna and Jason Gelb, to talk about how they use social media to improve these consumer relationships and obtain new members.

Vini studied marketing and advertising at Emerson College and has previously worked as an account executive at Antler Marketing. He has been a Boston BBB employee for the last six months as an in-house social media associate. He works alongside in-house investigator Jason Gelb, who has been working for the BBB for the last six months as well. Jason graduated from Lasell College with a degree in criminal justice. He previously interned at the Newton District Court Probation Department and is currently looking into the academy for the New York Police Department. The two work together to inform the public of accredited businesses, as well as raise alerts on business scams in eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont.

We asked Vini which social media platforms he uses the most and why. His answer, unsurprisingly, was Facebook and Twitter. He said these platforms provide the largest audiences and allow for maximum conversation potential. According to Facebook Statistics, the site has more than 800 million active users, of which over half log on every day. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo reported this year that there are over 100 million active users on his service. With stats like these, it’s no wonder these platforms are the most popular. We took that information to ask, “What are your goals with Facebook and Twitter?”

The BBB's Facebook page

Vini reported that the BBB hopes to reach many goals with the use of social media. These include strengthening customer relations through conversations, handling crisis management and negative press; and dealing with bad businesses and business scams. Although Vini and Jason are working on these things daily, they believe that the BBB has been successful in their efforts to communicate with B2B and B2C consumers. He says that social media is “ever-changing” and that business that use it must follow the trends in order to effectively use the different tools.

With successes ultimately come failure. When asked about the areas that he could improve on with the use of social media, Vini said that, “there is always room for improvement.” He would like to use his skills to get more brand support for the BBB. As he explained, the company is not just about business ratings. Vini would like to improve the public’s opinion of the BBB and their main mission.

There is no doubt that social media is changing the way organizations do business. Vini told us that although his social media efforts have been getting positive responses, there are people still adjusting to the changes.

“You have to be careful with what you say. You don’t want to make people mad,” he said.

The BBB's Twitter page

People cannot question the laws placed on business in Massachusetts on social media platforms. Additionally, users have to know their audience well enough before tweeting something about a business that could damage their image. Vini also said that his use of social media has been more effective than older forms of communication, such as email or phone calls.

“One blurb can reach 1000 people.” said Vini. With an email or phone call, you can only reach a limited number of people. Social media provides unlimited communication potential.

Watch Vini’s response to our question: “What is one thing that is crucial for business to know and do with social media”

In order to keep up with the changing times, it is absolutely necessary for businesses to use social media and the Internet. If a business isn’t online, it basically doesn’t exist nowadays. Without the use of a website and social media, businesses become invisible to the majority of the public. It is crucial for a business to build relationships on the Internet for the most obvious reason: instant connections.

Through the use of social media, the BBB can use different platforms to maximize these instant connections. Not only will each blurb Vini sends out reach thousands of members, but each person who sees his blurb can share it with each of their friends and followers. Creating an immediate information sharing ripple effect that is not possible with any other medium.

Knowing this we asked Vini if he thought businesses would continue to have more, or less, social media associates. He told us that all companies do things differently. Companies with a higher budget can afford to hire in-house experts. Other companies may have to resort to out-sourcing these people. However, the need for social media skills will continue in high demand. Plus, who wouldn’t want to help a company with its Facebook or Twitter account? Our generation especially is filled with experts on these platforms.

Vini said he likes his job not only for the conversations he has with consumers through Facebook and Twitter, but because he basically gets paid to be on these sites all day. He says that he gets a chance to learn about the world and businesses of the US every day. He reads articles about organizations and has the freedom to use social media to both his and the Boston BBB’s advantage. He has the opportunity to alert the world of important problems and successes regarding businesses. Of course, in order to find and share information on these businesses, Vini must take the findings of investigator, Jason, and put them into action with the use of social media.

Jason uses social media in a slightly different way for his role of investigator. When we spoke to him about how he uses social media to investigate businesses, he said that social media allowed him to get a sense of what people are saying about a business. “I can see if they have a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and so on.” He explained that once he has established if they exist in the social media world, he then goes in and investigates further.

Jason told us that social media is the starting point to scams. People can go online and report scams by tweeting them to the BBB Boston’s twitter handle or writing them on the Facebook page. Vini relays this information to Jason who then investigates the fraudulent businesses.

“I can tell a lot about the legitimacy of a business based off of their Facebook and Twitter accounts. If someone’s twitter was created about the same time we started receiving complaints against the business, and they are following 1,000 people but have 1 or 2 followers, it’s very likely that the account was made to make them look legitimate.” Jason explained.

Jason and Vini work together to alert the public of bad businesses. Jason can look into scams, report the findings back to Vini and visa versa. Both work simultaneously to bring unbiased information to the public eye. This works both on the B2B and B2C side. Other businesses can look at which businesses are accredited with the BBB and have an opportunity to report businesses that aren’t accredited that should be looked into. Also, anyone buying items such as windows, cars, or health services, can go on the BBB’s website to read about different companies and choose a service. Most of this information is ultimately collected through the use of social media, the businesses online brand and customer reviews.

When talking to Vini and Jason about the importance of social media in business we thought of a few suggestions they could use to aid in their use of the tool. We suggested they use tools like Hootsuite to control all social media platforms in once place. Vini told us, that they use a similar product that is paid for by the organization. Both Jason and Vini explained that they have to deal with crisis control on a daily basis. With that we suggested that they not only focus on scams but also focus on rewarding accredited businesses. The point of being accredited should be an honor. Both employees explained that they are in the works of doing just that.

Social media is so important to businesses nowadays, that it is almost impossible to exist as a reliable business without the involvement of online tools. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are basically free publicity resources that can be used to take a business from a start-up to a fortune 500 company. This goes for charities as well. The BBB accredits charities with the same standards they use to accredit businesses.

The BBB’s use of social media allows their goals to be achieved even easier than before. They can connect with consumers instantly and provide feedback to questions asked through social media platforms. Social media allows for the maximum audience attention. Friends and followers can share their information with hundreds of other friends and followers. It is a never-ending, ever-changing way for businesses to build instant customer relations. The Better Business Bureau is using social media and doing just that.

Here are Vini’s final thoughts on his use, the Better Business Bureau’s, and general businesses use, of social media.

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