Roy Banks is the CEO of Weave. He specializes in high-tech software development, e-commerce, internet marketing, and payment processing.
At the end of January, I was in a meeting discussing the day-to-day responsibilities of a small business. I was impressed that, on top of the normal duties we associate with running a small business, many business owners also moonlight as social media managers. For years, I had been a social media ghost, letting myself off the hook by saying that I was too busy. But that’s an excuse small-business owners don’t have the luxury of using.
So, I challenged myself to post something every weekday during the month of February. My goal was to put myself in the shoes of our customers and take on a task I would normally like to avoid. Small-business owners have to do that daily. They don’t enjoy calling up customers to collect unpaid bills, but their staff and they do it when they need to. They don’t love reminding patients about their appointments, but they do it because they know it will make the office run smoothly the next day.
Social media is a phenomenally powerful tool for businesses of all sizes. Advertisers are expected to spend over $56 billion promoting their products on social networks. Facebook commands the lion’s share of these expenditures (more than 80%), followed by LinkedIn (4%) and Pinterest (2%).
About a week into this challenge, I learned why I had been so absent on social media: I never realized how hard it would be to constantly create worthwhile content. I’ve always been a big advocate for small businesses, but my respect for small-business owners rose tenfold. I couldn’t imagine having to rely on my social media skills to bring in consistent customers.
I decided to be a little more strategic with how I created my posts. I knew that I wanted to hit home three things: the importance of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), how to make a people-first culture and what it’s like to work at Weave. Knowing that I wanted my posts to be about those three things, I started to plan out what the content would look like for the next three weeks. I started with a blank document and began typing.
Around midnight, it dawned on me that I had a unique opportunity to use my voice to shine a light on topics that weren’t being talked about. As one of the only black CEOs in Utah, I’m able to bring unique insights to Utah’s discussion of DEI, a conversation that has been rife with shame, disappointment and anger in the last few months, as some of my peers have made insensitive comments.
I know what it feels like to be the only person of color on a team, I know what racism feels like, and I understand the double standards people of color are held to. These are things that companies, leaders and communities need to discuss. I wanted my posts to help start these difficult conversations. It was comforting to hear some of the responses from members of my community and know that our futures are in good hands. The number of people who have DMed me wanting to engage further on this work has been tremendous and has given me plenty to do for the next few months.
Use the power of social media for good.
Some of the posts that came out of my late-night content creation session were just meant to be fun. I wanted people to know who I am outside of being a CEO. Anyone who works with me knows that I zip around the building on my electric scooter. So, I decided to challenge my employees to a race in the parking lot. I wanted to showcase that work and hobbies can coexist.
But the world moves outside of your content calendar, and life happens. The invasion of Ukraine was one of those events.
I soon found out that this war hit much closer to home than I had ever anticipated. A member of our customer support team told her manager that she had family in Ukraine who was affected by the invasion and desperately trying to leave the country. As soon as I heard, I immediately turned to my network on social media to ask them to help this family in any way they could, and we ignited our internal Weave Slack channels as well.
It was inspiring to watch the Weave team and my network respond so quickly and raise over $13,000 in a matter of hours. As a result, my employee’s family was able to cross the border to Moldova and catch a flight to the U.S., where they are currently living.
I got a taste of the power of social media and the ability to rally together and help someone in our community who was in need.
At the end of the challenge, I felt a sense of relief. Being on top of posting every day and replying to comments and messages was hard. It was eye-opening to me that millions of small-business owners do this every day, and in many cases, their businesses rely on it. I started to understand how empowering a “like” could feel, and I found myself giving out more likes to small businesses.
Small-business owners have to deal with so much, and while I will never fully understand how hard it is to run a small business, I do know that the added pressure of social media can be tough.
For the CEOs out there who aren’t practicing a moment of customer empathy on a daily basis, I urge you to step inside your customers’ shoes and cloak yourself in their identity. You’ll learn more than you can imagine. Now that my challenge is over, I pass the torch to you. Challenge yourself to a moment of customer empathy daily—you won’t regret it.
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