Since the days of cavemen, we’ve always communicated. Whether by drawings on a cave wall, telegraph messages or, now, texting. All that has changed over time are the ways we communicate. Because of advances in technology, not only can we interact with the person next to us but now we can chat live with someone on the other side of the world. Social media is no different. Since email, MySpace and AOL Instant Messenger, we’ve used the Internet to talk with our friends and family. Today, the way businesses communicate with customers has changed dramatically. Now, if a customer has a problem, he or she can tweet you. If you want to share the news about a big sale, you can post it to Facebook. And if you want to showcase a new line of products, you can pin them to a Pinterest board. We communicate online in a variety of ways, through text, images, video, photos, webcams, email, etc. But in today’s highly competitive market, we need to focus on the way we communicate with the world if we want to make an impact.
Think of a cocktail party or networking event you’ve gone to. There could be potential friends, colleagues, partners or even customers at that party. With every new face you meet, you would never go in for a handshake and say, “Hi, I’m Bob. I sell insurance. Buy from me today and here’s why …” Instead, we ask questions, find out what people like, share stories and get to know one another. Sure, we may drop hints about potentially doing business together but only in a casual way–if we’re smart. This is how your business should approach social media. Traditional marketing used to take on the first approach. Push, push, push and maybe even a little shove. Social media is about communicating with your customers, not at them. It’s always been this way and for the most part will always be this way.
Business owners who make sure their brands not only adapt to change, but fully embrace it, are the ones who succeed. Those who have their finger on the pulse on new technology and how customers’ habits evolve, are the ones who leave their competitors in the dust. Zappos is a well-known example of shifting the entire way of doing business by being an early adopter of social media marketing. They integrated social media into their entire corporate strategy, empowered their employees to engage with customers on various social channels and redefined how businesses use the Internet for generating sales. Their company skyrocketed to success because they didn’t sit back and wait to see if social media would be worth their while. Instead, they went full speed ahead because they saw a transformation on the horizon in the way people communicate. HootSuite only uses Twitter for customer support, whereas T-Mobile has created entire media campaigns around its social presence, and a local Colorado Springs radio station used SnapChat to drive entries for concert tickets. It’s not a matter of if or how you use social media anymore, it’s a matter of how well.
Now that more and more businesses have jumped on the social bandwagon, trying to get noticed among social users is harder than ever. The most recent shift has been the introduction of social advertising. From a marketing perspective, we all rejoice, but from a social-media user and consumer standpoint, we may cringe. Now businesses can interrupt messages from friends and family with their sales, promos and events. But, let me ask you this: As a consumer, wouldn’t you rather see ads that are targeted based on your hobbies, interests and stage of life? No longer are we in the days of driving leads by putting a bullhorn to our customers’ ears. As a business, it’s our duty to now share, engage and most importantly listen–rather than shout.
With one in three people in the world actively using social media, chances are high that your target market is on there. Whether you’re a manufacturing company or the brew pub down the street, having a social strategy is vital to staying alive. Consumers are in charge and the world of marketing is more competitive with hundreds of new mediums and ways to reach our audiences. So what will give you the competitive edge? Don’t get left behind. Don’t be afraid. Take risks. Try new tactics, new platforms, new messaging, new campaigns. Embrace what’s coming. Listen to what your customers are saying and hear what they want. Use social media as a way to market, and more importantly a way to communicate with your customers, not at them.
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