There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that social conversation has changed the way business gets done. People have argued with me about this, but the simple fact of the matter is, the change hasn’t been brought about by the social “industry” so much as by the way people use technology and social platforms. It’s all about people relating to each other as individuals.
In fact, the only way I think of social media as media anymore is in the advertising component. But advertising is advertising. It’s still a one-way message blasted to a broad audience, and always has been. The social change that I’m talking about, where relationships are built and nurtured, is all about conversation. It’s about where communication, collaborative consumption, and overall insight is being built into every facet of business.
Take the changes that Facebook is making to tighten down their algorithm once again for business pages, making the platform more and more of a “pay to play” medium. Do the conversations you’ve had with your audience on Facebook suddenly mean nothing? Is all the work you’ve put into building an audience, engaging people with helpful, useful content, building social advocacy and making your brand more human with real-time conversations suddenly going out the window? Not if you look at the social platform more as a conversation and relationship facilitator than a media platform.
Smart brands don’t look at Social Media just as media. They see that the digital transformation has and will continue to change the business landscape. They view it as a new way to facilitate human conversation, and realize that in order to stay competitive, they need to make a culture shift within their companies to incorporate it. Those who understand this dynamic gain market share by listening to what’s being said so they can get to know their audience preferences; they share content, jump into conversations already taking place and add value. They use it internally to facilitate better communication, employee advocacy, collaboration and innovation—all of which increases competitiveness, because people are drawn to brands that treat them as individual human beings—not a faceless demographic. I think very soon online conversation will just be called Social, and only because it needs to be called something.
And as far as consumers go, it’s almost as if we’ve come full circle back to the days when inter-personal sharing was the way we communicated. When we knew and had relationships with local merchants as individuals—talked to one another over fences—came together in village meetings—celebrated life in small groups. As humans we crave that kind of connection, that personal touch, and technology is helping us get it back.
That’s why I continue to be amazed at the power of Social, and I’m always reminding people that we need to view it and use it as a relationship builder. You can’t have conversations with media. People want to share with each other—talk to the people behind brands—ask questions—make recommendations—be charmed by something someone shared or said. They’re already social, and they want the brands they deal with to be social as well. The evolution is already well underway. Closing your eyes to it won’t make it go away… it just causes you to be less competitive and left behind.