Thursday, May 10, 2012

Social Media, what is it and why it’s important to your business

Social media is about people connecting with each other; between businesses, communities and individuals. Social media is also about user-generated content; it is highly interactive and driven by the people that use it. Most importantly however, social media is about relationships.

Businesses all know that relationships are key to success - good relationships make it easier to maintain profitable and loyal customers.

In recent times, the adoption of social media has changed the way that customers build and maintain relationships with companies and their brands. Today, customers want to share their experiences with their friends, both good and bad - and they want to hear about others’ experiences and recommendations. Social media gives them instant access to the information they require. With social media people can now connect with others anywhere, anytime.

Because social media revolves around user-generated content, social media platforms create an environment that is social, hyper-connected, creative and collaborative. This can be both good and bad for companies.
With the increasing popularity of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, users are continually bombarded with new information. The impact of this information overload is that consumers are building higher expectations, have shorter attention spans and a more powerful voice which they can use to talk to both organisations and peers through a public, unstructured medium. Consumers now dictate how, where and when they want to interact with a company - not the other way around.

This presents a number of obstacles for businesses:
  • Competition is global: through increased internet adoption, the boundaries between businesses and their customers are expanding and competition can exist anywhere in the world. Not every business can offer the cheapest price or the best deal so building a good brand image is extremely important - and one of the best ways to build a good brand image is by satisfying its customers, and going over-and-above what is expected so that these customers to spread the word.
  • Customer service is more important than ever: word of mouth is now word of mouse and because people are more connected than ever before, customer feedback, product reviews and user experiences can spread around the world reaching to millions of people in an instant. Consumers are using social media to ask questions, complain (just search #fail on Twitter and see what comes up), and suggest improvements and they expect businesses to respond using the same medium. Failing to do so can make the business appear “behind the times” and like they don’t care about their customers.
  • Businesses need to have a face: consumers want to do business with people, they want to see who they are dealing with and know that what they have to say is important. Businesses need to be listening and responding to their customers, and to do this they need to be “social” (we’ll talk more about this in the next blog).
Despite the above, social media presents a unique opportunity for businesses to engage in a more personal level with its customers. Businesses can leverage social media to identify new customer segments, improve or come up with new product/service offerings, and build popularity for the brand.

Keep an eye out in future posts for techniques you can use to achieve these benefits.

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