The face of business and customer interaction has been forever changed by this monster called Social media. Indeed, the world of communication has been altered irreversibly by the impact of the internet and in particular digital and social media. Fortune 100 companies, companies that are making billions of dollars every year are engaging one on one with their customers just like entrepreneurs and start-up. CEOs , entertainment stars and professionals in all fields are Tweeting and Facebooking , Pinteresting ( these last two are not in the English dictionary) to their fans and to like-minded people because of the realisation that the whole world is talking and if businesses and brands are going to make a global impact, they need to follow suit. Social media is no longer something that a company reluctantly includes in their marketing because their competitors are also doing it. (I have seen many tiny Facebook like icons that are apologetically hidden at the bottom of print adverts in newspapers with illegible Facebook addresses) Social media should be learnt, preferably by all senior managers including the CEO and then effectively implemented by all teams within an organisation. Its not just a marketing department issue.
How Social Media has changed businesses
- Customers are able to show you how much they love you and your brand by following you on your social media pages. Now if they Google your company and you are nowhere to be found, they are likely to start reading about the next company that they find on-line that is offering the same products and services. Many company executives fear that instead of love, their companies will get bad mouthed and complaints. Well, if you are doing something wrong, customers will talk about you anyway. So here is the thing, embrace this monster because it will turn into a guiding light that allows you to see what you are doing wrong and right. Ask Dell and Apple. They learnt the lesson from their mistakes and now have fans telling them what they like and don’t like about their products.
- You are able to attract fans and followers and to build relationships without having to leave your desk. Imagine that! You don’t have to take anyone for dinner, lunch or endure a painful golf afternoon and you can talk to customers from the comfort of your office to and to millions of people at that.
- You have immediate access to your customers. You no longer have to rush to a press conference or to put an urgent advert in a newspaper (that ad will only appear in tomorrow’s edition). Your social media site is available to you and your customers 24/7 and the updates land on your customers’ desktops or mobiles phones as soon as you press “enter”.
- Your business is able to connect with customers and to have a real human face rather than the perception of a remote, uncaring and money hungry company. Is it any wonder that companies that have succeeded on Social media also have CEOs and MDs who are actively promoting their brands as well as being active opinion leaders on the internet. These CEOs realise the value of communication and the benefit of telling the world that they know their stuff. There are many CEOs out there who have really valuable insight to give, but who just won’t , can’t bring themselves to learn how to become national, regional and global powerhouses of expert knowledge.
- Social media gives companies free marketing. Now who does not want free giveaways, especially giveaways as valuable as a couple of million potential customers? Wherever a business is, it can reach hundred of thousands ,if not millions of people around the world. Think of the possibilities! Amazon, Nike, Starbucks, McDonalds, Toyota, Nokia have stories to tell about how they have reached millions on-line.
- Your business has the potential to find out what customers think about your products and services. Perhaps this is where the problem is with many companies. They got away with making shoddy products and shoved bad service down our throats with the belief that we could never tell anymore other than our partners and other immediate families. Now that this communication portal has opened, they don’t have a clue how to handle customers and prospects who can destroy their reputation at the click of a button. If I were to point fingers right now, I would point my finger at banks for being the least receptive to the social media revolution, and yet, it has caught up with them… their customers are talking about them. And more innovative financial institutions are talking back.
How Social Media has changed customers
- Research shows that your customers are on-line at least 4 hours a day. What do you think they are doing and what brands do you think they looking at, if you do not have an internet presence? And by internet presence, I do not mean that static web site that you created five years ago , that you update maybe every quarter or when your corporate financial results come out.
- Your customers no longer ask you for advice. They ask Google and Bing and their friends and family. They do not need you as much for pre purchase advice. If you don’t believe me, try remembering the details of the advertisement on the top left hand corner ,on page 4 of the newspaper that you bought yesterday without looking. If you can remember, hurray to you. If you are not on-line and your website is not providing the information that your customers need, you will be ignored. The answer is social media engagement.
- Your shop and offices are open during the day for 8 hours, but the internet is open for business 24 hours. Your customers expect all day access to your company and its services and if you can not be found, they will go next door. On-line buying is a billion dollar business in most of the developed world and developing countries need to catch up to this phenomenon. If I want a pizza at 12 midnight, your business should be able to process an order, accept my payment and deliver it to me so that I can watch the 1am news with a pizza slice in one hand and the remote in the other. Ask Domino Pizza how they do it.
- Your customers now expect more than premium service. After all, they have the whole world for comparison. Mediocrity just wont do. To get your customers’ share of purse, your company needs to prove that you are not just another Tom, Dick and Harry service. Quality service is no longer a competitive edge, but merely the price of entry into your customers’ hearts. Your business needs to offer great on-line content, information, ease of access , personalised service and products that are bench marked against the best in the world.
- Customers are no longer just passive consumers of your advertising content, but active generators of information about your business . so if they thing that your products and services are ..well..rubbish..they will tell you or someone else. Its better to have a medium whether they can complain and where you can actually get to read about it and have the opportunity to correct your ways than for them to spread the bad news like wild-fire elsewhere.
“Privacy is dead, and social media hold the smoking gun.”
– Pete Cashmore, Mashable CEO
“Today people don’t trust companies. One of the things marketers want to do is to humanize their brand. What better way to do it than put a live person in front of them.”
– Jackie Huba, Author
For Brand reputation, Marketing and Social Media Training and consulting, email Chipo at email@example.com