The biggest thing in the world of business right now is social media. Everyone is trying to utilize the online space to help their businesses. I’ve talked quite a bit about social media here on this blog myself. I started the Kansas City chapter of Social Media Club, which now boasts nearly 1500 members. It’s a testiment to all the interest centered around this new communications platform. But what makes social media such a big change? Let’s go over some of the benefits that many believe are the reasons social media is such a big change for the business world.
I’ve gained a whole new perspective on business in being an owner of a small business myself. As we’ve grown, we’ve continued to evolve our business and truely get a sense of direction. One of the big things we’ve realized is that we need to focus on what makes us different. Of all the other places you can get weather information, why would a company want to utilize LRC Weather?
When I first started introducing people to social media, one of the big gains of utilizing it at that time was being a first into the game. Being first to engage with people through the online social channels produced great benifits with regards to brand awareness and perception and differentiated that company from all the others. I also warned that it wouldn’t be very long before communicating on these new online channels would be a must, just like having a website was then a given requirement. It would get to the point that if you DON’T have a presence in these spaces, your perception will go down. Well… we’ve already reached that point. Suddenly, this differentiator is gone. Simply being IN the online social media game is not the change.
Benefit #2: I’ve Caught a Virus
Creating content for people to consume can be of great benefit to an organization, as well as to individuals. I’ve been producing content online for many years. My weather podcast is 5 1/2 years and over 1800 episodes old already. Providing weather via the podcast, blog, and through sites like Twitter and Facebook have been great for me personally and professionally. Yet one may look at my download numbers and wonder what the big deal is. “You need to do more to get noticed, Ed” is often a phrase I’ve heard. Isn’t that the biggest need in the business world? Getting noticed?
One of the more popular ways of creating content is by creating videos. The media and “social media experts” have touted huge views of videos on YouTube and elsewhere. Suddenly everyone needed to create a “viral video.” Organizations are lured into a numbers game where they see “X million of vidoes viewed online each day,” “Over 500 million users on Facebook, ” and other statistics that make them desperate to jump in to reach “that audience.” They have scrambled to make that one video that captures the interest of people, garners thousands of views, and hopefully gets the organization noticed.
Much like traditional media, the potential numbers are simply spourious information and not a reflection of results from these channels. The Kansas City television market, or DMA, has nearly 1 million television watching households. Does this mean that your ad is watched by a million people? Of course not. Only a tiny fraction may be watching TV on your channel at the time your ad runs… say nothing of their attention during the ad itself. Unfortunately, few online videos ever see noteworthy views. Even if they do, they often fail to bring lasting visibility (and business) to the organization. Having a (potentially) larger megaphone is not the change
Benefit #3: Your Friend and my Friend
The barrier to entry for this online social space has been driven by sites like Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly, it’s easier to share yourself and your life with those you know. Their virtual central repository of the population makes creating connections with past peers as simple as a click. I have family, friends, peers from every school I ever attended (elementary to college), work collegues, and those I simply admire within my “friend” network. These are people that I have at least some sort of relationship with. Given this relationship, we honor (or discredit) their opinions much more readily. It’s easy to ask opinions of these aquantances and get a wealth of their throughts quickly. Yet, while much easier to gain the opinions of others than before social media, the ability to gain the opinions of our friends has always been around. The ability to give/get recommendations is not the change.
Benefit #4: Listening
One of the biggest benefits of social media is the ability to listen. Conversations have ALWAYS been going on. In the online world, it’s simply much easier to find them. Unfortunately, much of the listening that happens online is similar to a parent asking a child to clean their room.
Dad: “Son, can you go upstairs clean your room?”
Son: “Sure Dad.”
Two hours later, the room is untouched. At his point, we assume that our child didn’t listen. Why? Because listening involves more than an acknowlegement of things said, it involves action. So too goes for the online world. You can monitor all the conversations online you want. But if what you glean from those conversations does not move to you action, be it fixing a bad situation, rethinking internal processes, products, services, or simply reaching out and saying thank you, have you really listened? Simply having the ABILITY to listen and respond is not the change.
The REAL CHANGE – A reawakening of the golden rule
All of these things are great, and can help with your organization, business, or personal brand. Being involved in online social channels is great. The potential to access millions of people is great. The ease of getting recomendations of friends and others is also great . While the change can be drawn out of or adopted through these benefits, the real change goes far beyond them. All of these things bring one overarching theme. Being helpful. Caring. Valuing peoples opinions to the point where you allow evaluations to shape some of your decision making. It’s a reawakening of the human condition and an instance of being treated as a human. It’s demainding personal attention that we all crave and value. It’s a tactile sense that people are worth listening to. In the end, it simply honoring the golden rule… treat others as you would like to be treated. It’s something that has been missing from far too many businesses (and honestly, far too many people).
This new found awakening of the golden rule extends well past the online world. Customer service, marketing, product development… nearly every facet of business is being changed because people EXPECT to be treated right. They expect it more so than they did even a few years ago. If you are known to treat others any differently, the consequences are more severe than they ever have been in the past. If you have a business, have you strived to value the golden rule? Have you made a point to treat others, be it customers, prospective customers, or simply those you encounter like YOU want to be treated? The real change demands a change of heart.