Everything you thought you knew about the media, public relations, and marketing your business is changing.
Social media and online social networks have catalyzed disruptions in many businesses. Most of us are familiar with what digital music sharing did to a music business built on CD sales. Some of us remember the good old days of paper airline tickets booked through a travel agent.
The same forces are at work transforming financial products and service delivery models. Payments, banking, investing and financial advice are all on the verge of seismic shifts.
Social media is changing everything for professionals and their business practices. Here’s what I mean:
1. Everything happens in real time.
There’s no seven-second delay in social media. Mobile connected social applications are translating feelings into feedback as quickly as people can type and speak. Increasingly, the expectation among customers, colleagues and friends is that you’re listening and that you’re capable of responding – in real time.
2. No more silos
Public relations and branding, marketing and sales, client support and product development are no longer separate and distinctive activities. By forcing all of these activities into the public sphere, social media transforms bad product reviews into public relations and product development opportunities. Providing helpful client support becomes an opportunity to retain a customer and attract a non-customer to your offering. Education is the new marketing. Information sharing and curation is the new branding.
3. The goal is dialogue, not monologue.
Mass media is based on one-to-many messaging. If you’ve ever had traditional “media training” you’ve been told to stick to your talking points – regardless of what question you’re asked. That doesn’t work in social media which is built on many-to-many dialogue and good old-fashioned word of mouth. Answering questions transparently works. Giving people things to share and talk about with their friends works. Listening is as important, perhaps more so, than talking.
4. You cannot control outcomes.
In a true conversation, in any relationship for that matter, you cannot control both sides. All you can ever control is what you do and say to try and influence others. This is an essential dynamic of social media. Get used to it.
5. Your voice cannot be outsourced.
There are lots of services you can hire to help you with social media – support, training, strategic counsel, tracking and analysis tools, intelligent automation tools, etc. But when it comes to animating your brand with your voice, you have to “insource” not outsource. You can no more pay someone to be you than you can pay someone to go to the gym dressed like you and then expect to get the cardiovascular benefit of the workout yourself.
6. Time is more precious than money.
The most powerful social media tools and strategies are free or low cost, but you need to learn how to use them. And for that you need to dedicate time – the most precious resource of all. Buy all the paid media advertising you want. Spend your heart out on your owned online sites and tools. But if online reputation and influence is what you’re after, you’re going to have to earn it.
7. Attention is scarce and influence sought after.
The veritable explosion of online information and content has rendered our attention more scarce than ever before. And since everything is available on Google, information itself is less meaningful. Content curation and sharing strategies can be used to demonstrate knowledge and add valuable context to the information. Listening and helping people solve their problems gets their attention. This attention can translate into influence.
8. Personal brand is eclipsing corporate brand.
Corporate mega-brands once roamed the earth consuming the attention of the masses. Today, social media is giving people and businesses the tools to build their own personal brands. Content can be created more cost-effectively than ever and content sharing and distribution tools are readily available for building audiences. Remember, people do business with people.
9. Customers can make and break you.
More than ever before, customers and clients are empowered. Social media acts as a very effective distribution method for customer sentiment – both good and bad. If someone is happy with your product or service, they are going to talk about it in their networks. But social media can amplify negative customer feedback as well – and this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A customer that complains cares enough to tell you how they feel. Listen genuinely to customer complaints and use them to adapt your product/service to address your customers’ needs more effectively.
This article was originally published in Personal Branding Magazine, Issue 19, February 2012.