On most Tuesday nights I volunteer with SnapImpact on making an iPhone app called iVolunteer (see the app on the lower right corner of this blog) to help you find local volunteer opportunities. More than 50 people have contributed in some way to this project. One thing I love is that our ages range from early 20′s to late 60′s which reflect very different perceptions.
Last night I was talking with a product marketer in his 60′s who is just starting to look at getting on Facebook and Twitter because his kids are encouraging him to do it. He was asking me about how Twitter is helpful to businesses and I remembered a big generational lap I’ve seen in how we frame the value of social media.
After I explained the revolutionary aspect of easily and exponentially building relationships with customers and targeted people his response was, “but what company has the time to do that?” To which my response was, “What company doesn’t have time to do better customer service and build loyalty and lifetime value with their customers?”
This is a key hurdle for many companies to jump. When you see how Zappos, Comcast, Dell, small design firms and others are exploding their businesses with social media you see a few examples of how dozens of companies are creating loyalty. It’s not hundreds or thousands yet because most companies still don’t ‘get’ it.
We’re moving out of a broadcast (telling) marketing environment into a relationship (listening and then sharing) marketing environment. This is very hard for bigger, older, traditional companies and industries to understand. So when they see these new tools they’re still thinking in old ways and trying to use them in old ways that are ineffective and counterproductive.
In the 80′s we began complaining that the promise of technology giving us more leisure time was a myth. What people aren’t seeing today is that social networking is solving that problem, or at least getting much more benefit from our time, by creating more frequent connections to people around the world.
Twitter facilitates more in real life connections with people in your tribe than monthly networking events ever hoped for. Facebook allows people to share personal updates with hundreds of friends in a split second. YouTube allows us to learn from TED videos without attending the conference. Personal blogs allow people get deeper understanding of your personal and professional talents. And there are many other benefits to these and the dozens of other social networking sites.
I’m teaching unemployed people how to find job leads and communicate with HR directors and C level executives through Twitter. This was not possible 3 years ago. Social media will evolve into tools that help companies design product offerings based on direct consumer requests instead of unscientific market research in the future.
The flow has shifted. It’s time to learn how to befriend customers and treat them like citizens rather than broadcast messages about your product’s greatness to them like sheepish consumers. Companies will soon learn to engage with their audience on a peer level or they will be out of business.