By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
It was interesting watching a Facebook post as it developed last week after being initiated by Jim Hammill, president and CEO of Erwin Hymer Group, the parent company of Roadtrek.
First of all, Hammill deserves major kudos for putting his face on the front lines of the social media battlefield. It is rare to see corporate CEOs willing to ask questions of owners and field responses from customers on a public site. It’s rarer still to find the CEO of a company actually engaging customers and answering their questions on dozens of posts every week.
He posted this simple question to the Facebook Roadtreking group at 7:17 a.m. Feb. 21:
“Hey folks, I am at a business conference in Germany right now. I need your help! Can you please tell me if you like this Roadtreking group? Is it important? Does it matter to you? Why? Thanks in advance and keep on trekking!”
Within seven hours, he had 358 comments. Four days later, that jumped to 476.
The comments provided specific information about what members appreciate about the group and why they turn to it day after day for information about the company, its products and the RV lifestyle in general.
I have no idea what research he was conducting or why. But, the evidence shows how easy it is for CEOs and corporate managers to gather near instantaneous feedback at absolutely no cost. Just ask a question, go grab a cup of coffee, talk to a few folks in the break room, then come back and start reviewing answers.
Some will criticize the group because moderators are quick to step in and clamp down on negative discussions. They actually go so far as to ban super-negative people from the group. I’ve been told it’s okay for people to seek advice for problems they are experiencing and to even indicate dissatisfaction with something. But the type of flamethrowers that have been known to ruin other Facebook groups are not tolerated in the Roadtrekking group.
Still, it is not unusual for Hammill to respond directly to customer posts, both good and bad. In fact, it appears he has participated in almost two dozen discussions in the past 10 days or so.
I’d encourage the CEOs of every RV-related company from manufacturers to suppliers to dealers to join or create a Facebook group devoted to their business, select a moderator or two and create an awesome online community. I truly think they’d be surprised when they can sit back and read how others are talking about the company and its products.
Year’s ago, business consultants were preaching an MBWA style of leadership — managing by walking around. Today, they can do the same thing, but by lounging around instead.