People want to do business with people they like, know and trust. That fact, combined with the axioms that “no one wants to make a bad decision”, and “no one ever wants to feel taken”, helps to explain the growing importance of social media in businesses. Social media is merely the next evolutionary step of the Internet. Maybe I’m dating myself, but can anyone remember life before the Internet? Making a stock trade cost hundreds of dollars and a call to your broker, booking a vacation required a drive to your local travel agent, finding a phone number required the yellow pages, and looking up the meaning or spelling of a word required the dictionary. Internet Version 1 translated into wholesale disintermediation for many businesses – those that were quick to adapt thrived and those that didn’t perished. However, I think many businesses are still slow to catch on to the fact that social media will impact all businesses. How? Well, Meet the Flockers.
Internet Version 1 was about putting your business online, which often involved an e-commerce site, e-mail and brochure ware. Version 2 of the Internet is taking on an entirely new dimension – people and interaction. As humans, we all crave interaction. Yes, even the socially awkward take on an entirely new persona online. With the introduction of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linked-in, it is now easier than ever to connect with like-minded individuals forming, you guessed it “Flocks”. What’s fascinating about these Flocks is the mass influence they command when it comes to the buying process. Let’s look under the hood of the 21st century consumer- individual or business – makes a purchase decision.
Here is a typical buying process in today’s world: Step 1: Do your homework – what products or services is out there Step 2: Narrow the field based upon your subjective criteria. Step 3: Read reviews. Step 4: Ask objective parties about their likes and dislikes and their experience with the product or service. Since consumers these days are by and large more skeptical, we tend to place a higher value on Step 3 and Step 4 of the decision making process.
These crucial steps, 3 and 4, are precisely where I believe social media is re-writing the rules of engagement for business. There are now a lot more trusted sources from which to solicit information. A bad review with the wrong customer could give a business a black eye with hundreds, thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands of customers instantly. Likewise, a great review and recommendations could give rise to the next “BIG” thing. Socially speaking, since like-minded people with similar interests are “flocking” together and sharing experiences – one individual could hold sway with an entire demographic. This influence could be very good or very bad for any business.
In my view, businesses need to be a good shepherd (just keeping the theme going) to these flocks by facilitating, participating and monitoring social media interactions related to their business. Ignoring the rapidly growing influence of social media will come at a huge cost.
What do you think?