According to conventional business wisdom, companies should abandon efforts to acquire new customers during an economic downturn and focus instead on their best customers. The primary benefits of doing so are cost reduction and improved customer loyalty, we are told.

The problem with this approach is that we are not in conventional times.

Customer loyalty is fickle

Before Google, most people shopped with catalogs and in local stores. Today, the world is at shoppers' fingertips. Anything that you sell can be found somewhere else, probably at a lower price. Even if you have delivered perfect service, your customers will occasionally stray. They may test the waters and quickly return, but your revenue is still reduced. Ignoring opportunities to acquire new customers during these turbulent times is suicidal.

Fortunately, the same technology that expands your customers' horizons works for you, too. The Internet has evolved into a social network filled with opportunities to attract new customers and engage the ones you already have.

Of course, risk comes with every opportunity. Since the entry fee is minimal, using social media to grow your business doesn't require a significant financial investment. But don't be misled by the perception that it is risk-free. The risk is customer and brand alienation. If you make a major misstep, your company could suffer irreparable harm.

Before you enter the relatively new frontier of social media, you need an action plan. Although the costs are low, social media tools require extensive maintenance to be effective. Your strategy needs to fit your corporate culture, resources, and customer expectations.

Twitter is probably the best place to test the social-media waters to see if it is right for your company.

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image of Debra Ellis
Debra Ellis is a speaker, consultant, and author of the integrated marketing guide Social Media 4 Direct Marketers. She is the founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting ( and can be reached via