MOUNT SNOW, VT.–Social media, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, have limited but important uses in the acquiring business, according to Kevin Jones, president of SignaPay Ltd., an Irving, Texas-based ISO and processor.

“It only partly works in payments–if you’re doing it well,” Jones told attendees here Feb. 1 at the Northeast Acquirers Association 2012 Winter Seminar and Outing.

But so many consumers use social media that businesses cannot afford to ignore the technology, Jones said. “With over a billion users on social media, it’s irresponsible not to have some kind of presence,” he said.

Jones advised viewing social media the same way one thinks of phones or electrical power–they do not bring in revenue directly, but the business would lose revenue without them.

ISOs and agents should use social media to “spread the word” about their businesses to established and potential customers, Jones said.

Social media can disperse information to a staggering number of users. If two recipients of a message share it with two others and that happens 27 times, 1.5 million consumers will receive it, he said.

“But the message must be worth spreading” or that wide dissemination will not occur, Jones cautioned.

By way of example, Jones said most ISOs would not initiate a boring discussion of the Payment Card Industry data security standards at a dinner party. It won’t work on social media, either, he maintained.

Instead, make social media messages “unique and inviting,” even if the subject is business, Jones said.

That way social media can build an ISO’s brand, Jones said. That requires making individuals–not the company–the brand and doing so with authenticity, he said.

ISOs and agents can use social media to share news and information with customers, but Jones reminded his colleagues that they never visit their power company’s page to see what’s up these days with electrical generation, and merchants may not stop in for details on how an ISO feels about recent legislation.

ISOs can reach their clients through social media, however, by appealing to niche markets with relevant tips and advice, he said. That includes restaurants, nail salons and other specialty businesses.

Social media also can help ISOs conduct informal polls of their customers, collecting information cheaply and almost instantly, Jones said.

But if ISOs or agents expect to grow sales in any measurable way through using social media, they likely will meet with disappointment, he maintained.

On the other hand, social media has proven itself valuable as a tool for recruiting and evaluating job candidates. Employers can learn more than ever about potential workers and vice versa, Jones said.

In any event, social media seems unlikely to disappear from the business scene any time soon, according to Jones.

Some 57% of businesses plan to increase their social-media spending this year, and 38% of CEOs say the technology ranks among their top five priorities, he noted, citing a post on the Harvard Business Review blog by David Armano. The post, called “Six Social Media Trends for 2012,” was based on a survey by Booz Allen and Buddy Media, Jones told PaymentsSource.

The researchers also found that 90% of consumers trust their peers’ recommendations, while only 33% trust ads, which indicates social media’s the potential power to influence shoppers, he said.

Social media also works wonders in small ways, Jones said. Some ISOs, for instance, use closed-circuit social media to keep in contact with far-flung sales agents, building team spirit and encouraging them to persevere when they see their fellow agents succeed.

“Social media’s relevance to payments is small at this point,” Jones said, “but it will grow.”

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