Heading home on the tram a few nights ago, I was thinking about the social media event I was coming from and was confronted by this question: “Has social media turned us into consumers of people?” Well, I guess so – but it’s not as horrific as that might sound.
For me, social media has become this pulsing ebb and flow of information from people that I trust. I’m influenced increasingly more through what’s being shared by people through social networks and less from traditional channels.
Surprisingly, I’ve notice that I start picturing in my head, these people I know, using the products, at the restaurants, drinking the beers, reading the articles. Maybe it’s an over-active imagination, but it’s dawned on me that what I consume is deeply infused with the personality of the people who have shared their experiences with me.
And I dare say I’m not the only one.
This social aspect to consumption means we’re consuming the recommendation of others and essentially entering into a shared experience. Social media is moving forwards in leaps and bounds and has significant implications for both businesses and individuals.
What does this mean for individuals?
Knowing that what we share is infused with our own personality, means we should aim to make our social media presence valuable for those we interact with. That doesn’t mean every status update needs to be a well crafted, literary masterpiece, but we should still try to bring value to what we share overall. The key point I want to make here is this:
Who you are matters.
You matter. There’s a reason why the people who are connected with you want to be connected. What you share online contains elements of your personality, your interests, your insights. Whether you created the content or shared it, whether you’re talking about what you’re eating or how you’re feeling, whether it’s been a good experience or a bad experience – you influence the people you’re connected with.
It’s up to all of us to make sure social media is relevant to each other. In the midst of the LOLcats and photos of breakfast, share what matters to you. It’s your way of not only influencing your networks, but infusing yourself into the social media experience of others.
For me, it boils down to my personal social media mantra:
Share what matters, contribute positively, have fun.
What does this mean for businesses?
From a business perspective, social media is word of mouth marketing taken to a new level as people are more connected with wider networks and can be influenced by just about anyone.
Be aware of what’s being said and who’s saying it.
- Just because your business isn’t active online, it doesn’t mean people aren’t talking about you. And if they are, what they are saying is influencing the people they’re networked with, who could just be your future customers – or not.
- If it’s good, acknowledge it. Showing your appreciation could make a loyal customer who shares their positive experience with your business.
- If it’s bad, respond positively. You could flip a negative comment to a great example of customer service.
Participate and create sharable experiences
- Social media thrives on sharable experiences, and you can have a hand in participating in these. Using FourSquare, for example, is a way to be active on a crowdsourced platform by offering specials, thanking customers and making sure your details are current.
- Think small. You don’t always need to create extravagant campaigns. Multiple small, experiences (e.g. the customer service examples above) will create a broader picture of your business.
- Understand the platforms. Find out where people are talking, and how the platforms work together. For example, FourSquare users will often cross-post to Twitter and Facebook – and that’s where the discussion happens.
Leverage online engagement for offline relationships
- Be proactive, reach out. Don’t simply react to what others are saying, reach out to your customers. Twitter’s a great platform for this, allowing you to contact your customers directly. Ask how their day is, invite them for lunch at your restaurant, tell them when their dry cleaning’s ready. Initiate the conversation.
- Make your customers feel like VIPs. It doesn’t take much to make your customers feel like they’re significant. If you’ve been talking to them online, give them recognition when you see them in person. Use their name, say hello, say thanks after – really, that’s all it takes.
- Be a person. Be a person. Be a person. Steve Davis emphasised this at that a recent social media event in Adelaide (#socadl). Simply put, we need to tone down the sales copy and turn up the personality.
So, that’s all from me, and it’s over to you: Have you made decisions on what you consume (e.g. news, food, products, etc) based on recommendations of others on social media?