Running a company in 2013 is very different from running one in 2003. In fact, the way business is done today has more in common with local shops in the ’50s than anything. This is due largely to the rise of social media and how very cost-effective it is to generate and keep up a very real relationship with your customers.

Consumers today have a very particular set of expectations in line for companies with which they do business. Your products and/or services must meet the needs of the customers, and it’s very possible that a company can thrive without doing much (if any) social media interaction based on this merit alone.

The real shift in power comes when your company exists in a competitive environment where you are drawing from a single pool of potential customers against competition that offers similar services and/or products. What sets your company apart from the thousands of other online presences that promise to solve your customer’s every needs?

The Importance of Connection

The answer can often be found in how you engage and interact with potential and existing customers. There’s a reason so many people prefer to shop at their local grocer over the large chains, despite the local grocer having to charge slightly higher prices to offset overhead. It all comes down to context of relationship.

Your local grocery store knows its customers, greets them by name at the door, and probably even special orders certain merchandise knowing that one or more of their customers have expressed interest in those products in passing. This relationship is very real, and very hard for a big brand to compete against.

Through the years, we as a society lost that connection with each other. We started giving our undivided attention to the online world. We became fascinated by the convenience of shopping without leaving our homes. The lower prices offered by online retailers like Amazon caused us to demand those same low prices locally, and companies like Walmart have been able to deliver thanks in part to their extremely large orders and power at the bargaining table.

Connecting in a Modern World

Then there’s today’s world. We’re finding ourselves liking and following brands we are interested in on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

These companies have become more savvy at interacting on a more personal nature. A tech-oriented business might strike up a discussion about Big Bang Theory characters, solve real customer service issues in an open forum, and even wish their customers a Happy Birthday in ways we couldn’t have imagined a decade ago.

How brands (big and small) leverage this powerful communication revolution is vital to their success. Even big box electronics stores like Best Buy have given their employees a little more slack in terms of how they represent themselves as employees online. Social media has become a flowing river, and while some companies might try to dam it to stop the flow of “unapproved” material, others are embracing the trend and redirecting the river to help their crops grow.

In many ways, the market has more in common with business trends of yesteryear than it has in the past 60 years. Companies that embrace this shift will flourish while others will surely fall by the wayside, wondering how they failed to make the connection that their customers so eagerly demand.

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