Most businesses today have adopted a Facebook page, a Twitter profile and certainly a web page. Online media, for some businesses, is viewed simply as a modestly effective marketing tool, that certainly makes it easier for customers to find their hours, and location. Yet, there is much more brewing below the surface, as I discussed last week.

Each week we mention specific brands more than 90 times in our conversations. Seventy one percent of us claim reviews from family members or friends exert a great deal of influence on purchases.

Now our conversations are happening online, and our stories have the potential to spread as quickly and as wide as wildfire. This on-line shift has set a spark under the board room chairmen of businesses, as they are beginning to realize they can no longer hide behind a glossy, expensive ad campaign designed to convince consumers to buy their products.

Today’s new marketing departments are less focused on ads, and are more focused on how to build relationships with their customers, as collaborative partners, gathering insight to create a lifetime, two-way interpersonal relationship.

If a business wants to develop a raving following of high-value customers, they can begin by leveraging their social networks to actively search for complaints, and work hard on modifications to make it right. If we’ve had a bad experience with a product, customer service is usually the last place we go — we usually head straight to our Facebook page.

But this is a two-way relationship. If social media has made it possible for a business to build a relationship with us, the company must give something back to us in return. Now we can easily find out how authentic its values really are. Read more about how some businesses are using their social media platforms to help their, sometimes tattered, images shine. Read more about those companies here.

Adapted from my column for the SNP.

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