Earlier this year, I read a Forbes article that was debating the future of Google and Facebook and asking whether one or other, or even both of them might disappear within the next 5 years?
It’s an interesting point because sometimes the main argument against using social media to promote your business is precisely the speed at which it’s changing and evolving. After all, how many people use My Space now? Does the rate at which social networks come and go mean that you should never invest the time and effort to learn how to use them, or is it important to ride the digital wave?
For me, how long an actual network lasts – Google or Facebook, for example, – seems less important than the more fundamental changes that are taking place in how we live our lives. Digital guru Brian Solis makes a similar point in his excellent book, The End of Business As Usual: Rewire the Way You Work to Succeed in the Consumer Revolution choosing the example of how mobile phones have changed society:
“Displacing landlines is one thing. The cell phone’s impact on behaviour is something different altogether. For years, we frowned on bringing anything to the dinner table that might detract from the interactions that meals foster. But then cell phones quietly took over our attention one by one, until the table was surrounded by people with their heads downward and their thumbs texting away. To an outsider, this conduct would appear nothing less than rude.”
So what are the broader impacts of digital media and social networking on the way a business talks to its customers? The list is potentially endless, but here are a few of my suggestions:
It’s no longer enough to hit people with one size fits all messages. Customers expect something targeted and individual, that speaks to them. Social networking may be cheaper than mass marketing campaigns but it takes just as much, if not more, planning to get right.
Social media is part of a general trend in closer relationships between businesses and the customers they serve. Twitter – by its very nature of limiting updates to 140 characters or less – is driving a move towards more informal, more direct conversations.
If we once thought twice about whether we needed a mobile, now it’s more likely to be the laptop that gets left at home. Customers want to check info, find products and buy on the move so your website has to be accessible for mobile devices.
Talking to customers about products and services is no longer a one way street. Customers want to get involved, share stories and make suggestions… if only you let them.
Good not greed
If there is one lasting legacy of the credit crisis that improves society it will be the move to focus less on greed and more on the collective good. More people want to give back and get involved in movements that genuinely help the world, which is great news for businesses that are involved in something bigger than simply the products they sell.
And finally, back to that Forbes article which ends with a rallying call that should motivate even the most cynical social networkers… “those who own the future are going to be the ones who create it. It’s all up for grabs.”
How is the way you talk to customers changing? Leave us a comment below to share your experiences.