Social Media has become a modern day phenomenon with brands like Facebook and Twitter having a global impact on everything from Business sales to the turn-over of Governments. These are the names of a new form of communication that allows people around the world to share their lives through the online experience of a Social Network. For Business this is a marketing opportunity and learning the social media rules and culture is step one in joining the Social Media Conversation.
What has surprised many is the level of transparency that comes through social media. In years gone by when wives wrote intimate letters to their sailor husbands transparency was both inspiration and a blush moment. With sailors often lost at sea for years at a time the separation caused them to put pen to paper in case the moment was lost to the waves of time for bared hearts to be revealed. Now we have a generation living in the moment willing to share their triumphs and pain in the reasonably public arena of a social network.
While the IT guides shout their cries of concern over privacy the masses continue to rally to the digital megaphone. One of the key attributes of social media is that the consumer believes they now have a voice that can be heard. Many business leaders would say that Joe Public always had a voice but what used to be a private engagement by phone or letter has now become a shared experience where the collective voice is amplified and demands attention. From their opinion on the quality of restaurant food through to a groundswell of dissatisfaction with government policy, the social media experience is allowing the public to provide us with a feedback loop on how our business or organisation is meeting a need.
One of the dangers of injecting traditional marketing into this environment is that we simply try to be the ‘louder’ voice, pushing more ‘specials’ and ‘sale now on’ messages that don’t add to the customer experience. This comes from a promotional perspective where we think marketing is about being heard and that we need to stand out from the crowd. But take yourself back to the last dinner party you went to. Did you respect the host who catered for the needs of their guests or the party animal who fell off the coffee table?
Your business and the brand it represents will grow more in the social media space if you act as the perfect host rather than the class clown. The beauty of a social media conversation is that brands who understand the ‘host’ approach will survive the ups and downs of engaging with their customers. They realise that relationships can survive a burnt dinner if the friendship represents a long term investment in their well-being. The perfect host listens to their guests, provides the right environment and services, and is honest with their conversation. In our future columns we will explore some of the benefits of each social network.