Before the introduction of social media into our daily lives, conducting business had long been an alienating, often impersonal experience. The customer or client had a want that a particular business satisfied, the two communicated briefly — a little back and forth, so to speak — and then (ideally) the transaction was made, and the relationship basically ended there. It had long been a place where having a Godfather-like rationale — that it was business, not personal — had proliferated.
But underlying all of those transactions stood something very real: People were actually being connected to one another. Sure, those connections were brief and rarely ever went beyond that initial point of contact, but they did involve people. Not dogs, monkeys or robots — actual people.
And then, sometime within the past few years, this sort of enigma called ‘social media’ (just what kind of a name is that, anyway?) sprung up, out of the ground or some kind of hobbit hole. And its goal was to do what we were already doing in our actual lives — networking — on a much larger, digital scale.
And quickly, business became less and less about transacting transactions. Here are just a few ways that social media changed business from ‘just business’, into something much more meaningful and personal.
1. Customers Became Friends, Not Just Prospective Sales
It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to believe that most businesses, particularly those that deals with upwards of thousands of customers, don’t necessarily have the time to form close, lasting relationships with all of their customers. Repeat customers, certainly, but the ones that might show up just a few times a year — or maybe just once — probably not.
But then social media came along and customer expectations of how businesses should communicate with them — the loyal customers that they are — completely changed. Now, businesses were expected to not only transact business, but also communicate with their customers before, during and after those transactions.
So, with the advent of social media, business was centered less on transacting business, and more about forging deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers that would not only encourage them to become repeat customers, but would also provoke them into spreading the word about that business to their friends. After all, good friends share!
2. Creating Amazing Customer Experiences
But beyond encouraging businesses to develop deep relationships with their customers, social media has also forced businesses to rethink their own strategies underlying customer experience. Undoubtedly, having a great experience with a particular business can adversely impact the probability of them returning to that particular business. Whether it’s a friendly face, a helping hand or just a seamless, pain-free purchasing experience, customers are like elephants: They remember everything.
But that also means that when a business offers customers terrible experiences, those can be even more damaging to the reputation of that business. Because social media is existent nearly everywhere, the possibility for negative experiences to be amplified throughout an individual’s network are huge. So, instead of simply telling 10 or 20 of their friends, they could possibly be amplifying that terrible experience to hundreds, if not thousands of people.
Which is why creating spectacular customer experiences have become such an important part for any business to successfully make the transition into the world of social media and being ‘personal’ (and personable) . Ensuring that customers who are happy and excited about their experiences are recognized and appreciated is important. On the other hand, minimizing the probability that a customer will have a negative experience by ensuring that all facets of the customer experience are flawless — from their initial contact to anything beyond their purchase — is arguably the most important. An amazing customer experience can be the difference between a glowing review or a disgruntled customer.
3. Catering to Customer Wants
Finally, by developing deeper relationships with their customers, businesses are now able to more accurately determine what they want. Social media has granted customers the opportunity to become directly involved with businesses and to voice their own opinions on new products, changes or related events. Customers now have a voice that isn’t limited to just (useless) comment cards.
And smart businesses have already begun to take note, reaching out to customers via social media, and gaining the same sort of feedback from their own social media presences that might cost them thousands of dollars to acquire from market research companies.
Ultimately, this lowers the overhead and costs that might accrue from the development and distribution of a new product: If customers indicate that they wouldn’t be interested in a product through a business’s social media pages, they can choose not to develop it. By catering strictly to what their customers want, businesses can minimize their expenses and maximize sales because they can reasonably expect that the products (or services) they want to release will already have a market with their close customer base.
Social media has made customers much closer with the businesses that they interact with. The wall that once separated businesses from their customers has since been broken down and replaced by extensive social networks that encourage interaction among businesses and their customers.
Now, conducting business is no longer just ‘personal’. It is an open affair that encourages transparency and communication, rather than penalizing it. Business isn’t just business anymore.
Source: MSM DesignZ, Inc. is a Westchester social media company based in NY specializing in advertising, web and graphic design, and SEO.