It was only about a decade ago when brands didn’t have the slightest clue what Facebook fan pages, custom Google Plus business pages and Twitter business profiles were. Today, a brand wouldn’t be caught dead without having at least one active social network connected to their business. But when it comes to defining how social media has impacted modern business culture, it’s clear to see how this digital technology has given businesses the opportunity to communicate in more ways than ever before, amplifying their communities and creating competitive advantages.
Sharing is the ultimate foundation of social networking. By recognizing how all of technology has evolved over the years gives us valuable perspective into the impact of social media:
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Humble beginnings and sharing
In the dawn of the computer age, all that was available on our screens was illuminated green text on oversized monitors in an entirely DOS based operating environment. Outside of business applications, there was nothing worth sharing let alone describing, a virtual yawnfest of boring text and information.
Then came a program called “Paint”, where vivid colors and shapes splashed onto the screen. Our masterpieces could be printed and then shared with others. Printing and passing something around was virtually the only method of sharing outside of faxes and then later came the popularity of emailing.
Social media networking gave us a unique ability above and beyond simply sending a message with an attached picture. Both the information and the image can potentially reach an audience into the millions on social platforms. Add the ability to personally interact with these images and information and the sharing circle was completed.
The growth of gaming brought new sharing
Monotonous Pong and travelling through Asteroid belts began losing steam to the beginning of interactive games as we know them today. When fiction-based adventures first began hitting our screens, they used nothing but mere text telling the character where to go and what to do. The computer responded by informing you in great detail the place of your arrival, what was all around you or perhaps what had just happened to your character.
For example, in the widely popular Zork series, if you did not grab the flashlight before heading down the dark staircase, you would be eaten by a lurking grue, lose your life and be sent back to the beginning.
A trek through this imaginary land was entertaining, but the vast number of paths we took through its mazes were only in our memory. This had users sharing complicated maps, diagrams and tips to navigate this huge and complicated underground world. Today, not only are we interactively playing games online, we are also posting our high scores, offering basic gaming skills, tips and tricks that are being seen everywhere on the internet, especially on social media platforms.
This powerful and valuable marketing tool utilizes the sharing of our own information and advice. Businesses can better connect with people by offering them tips and tricks that are relevant to their industry or profession. Customers will remember first that you assisted them, will be likely to share that experience with their friends and later return to you as a consumer.
Sharing is Caring
Before celebrating my birthday this year, I heartily enjoyed the handful of traditional birthday cards that I received through “snail mail” from friends and family. When the date of my birth arrived, I found another wave of well-wishers online with dozens of postings on social websites commemorating my arrival on planet earth.
My choice was to either respond with a blanket message to all who wished me well or I could thank each person individually. Either way, I could engage with all of them in some way and get my message of gratitude to them. More importantly, I didn’t have to take into account everyone’s hectic schedules and find the right method and time to contact each and every one of them.
This is an excellent example of how businesses can touch their customers through social media. An exciting form of interactive customer service is now at our disposal using these platforms. Whether it is a simple birthday greeting or a reminder about a service that needs to be performed, we can show our consumers that we care about them and their lives.
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A transparent overview of communication
Coming from an “old school” and conservative background, I initially found the popularity of sites like Facebook and Twitter an invasion into my personal and business privacy. But with today’s technology we cannot help but embrace how powerful these social media sites have become.
Transparency is key to a profitable and growing online presence. Strengthening our current online marketplace, we must cast aside our old ideals of confidentiality. By doing this we can gain a new, exciting audience through social media.
Before all of today’s technology was available for use at our fingertips, most business was carried on either face-to-face or over the telephone. Now everything is available online and with the sheer power of social networking, our business needs to be present in this valuable marketplace with nothing to hide. Anything and everything that our customers need to know should be available to them — they already expect it to be that way.
We need to embrace this ability to engage with the billions of users interacting on social sites daily. They are connecting with people and businesses around the corner, on the other side of the country and across oceans. We can learn how to communicate with people from around the world just as easily as with those in our backyard.
In the past, a consumer may share a negative or positive experience with friends and family over the course of several days or even weeks. With social media, that event can be posted and seen by dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people in mere minutes. This gives the customer a tremendous amount of power but at the same time gives a unique opportunity for the business to respond.
If the experience had a some positive notes, we can thank them for their comments and patronage. We can address and attempt to resolve a negative event and offer our apologies. Either way, not only did the customer note our acknowledgement, so did the rest of their social circle.
Recognize the past and embrace the future
There are many quotes that state those who do not recognize mistakes from the past are condemned to repeat them in future. Social media has grown exponentially from it’s humble beginnings in 2004 on a college campus and has taken the internet by storm. We can either hide from the rain or navigate successfully through the weather and reap the rewards.