Social media and its impact on business only exists because of the larger trend of customer information and consequent choice making. 15 years ago, most of us didn’t care so very much about where our meat came from, or which rental car company we used, or what type of permanent marker we wrote with – because we didn’t have any meaningful information to help us decide.
Did we write letters to Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, and Budget and ask them to send us brochures so we could make a more informed choice? Of course not. Nor, did we hoof it down to the local library to use encyclopedias or read annual reports via some byzantine database.
We made purchasing decisions based on traditional advertising (not known for its info-centrism), packaging, price, and word of mouth.
But now, thanks to the advent of the Web, and then social media, everyone is an informed consumer. We make purposeful choices with our dollars because we have the information and corresponding insights to delineate between options that heretofore seemed identical.
You’re the Exception, Not the Rule
If you’re reading this blog, you care more about social media than almost any of your customers, who don’t have the advantage of social media being a component of their profession. Instead, they are balancing their social media creation and consumption with job, family, religion, volunteerism, and other forms of diversion.
Your customers are carving out pieces of their free time and giving it to you via social media. It’s an incredible gift. And that’s why it’s imperative that if you’re going to succeed in social media, you need to dig deep and communicate with your customers through authentic, human stories that are equal parts marketing and entertainment. Give potential customers something to remember you by, rather than a 140-character press release, coupon, or nutritional info via QR code.
Beware the Invitation Avalanche
Yes, I realize that there are research studies that show a big chunk of social media fans and followers do so to get access to special offers. But that data reflects a moment in time, a vestige of the era (soon to pass) before customers were besieged by invitations and offers and contests and social shopping deals and bit.lys.
Email marketing has followed a similar trajectory. In its early incarnations, customers signed up for newsletters in droves to get access to promos sent directly to them by companies they favored – no trudging to the mailbox required. But now, nobody wants more email, and smart companies go to great lengths to ensure that their email communication is fully optimized for relevancy and context, to avoid customer tune-out.
Social media will travel the same path. When every company has a Facebook page, and a Twitter account, and a blog, and a YouTube channel, and a Foursquare offer, and whatever else is coming along next, how are customers going to parse all of those invitations?
When every company on the planet has a special offer, yours isn’t that special.
The companies that succeed and break through the pile of social flotsam will be those that base their social efforts on humanization and storytelling, not on post-modern couponing and eyeball purchasing. The winners will focus on people, not logos.
Which will you do?