When people discuss social media they are often bogged down in the technicality of what that means - social media referring to the actual forms of “electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content” which goes hand in hand with marketing, or “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.” These are accurate definitions of what social media marketing is, but they are limiting in their definition of what a business has the power to accomplish using these tools.
The term used to describe this new mindset and age of possibility is debatable, but one Harvard Business Review writer, Nilofer Merchant, named it the “Social Era” and explained: “While in the industrial era, organizations became more powerful by being bigger, in the Social Era, companies can also be powerful by working with others. While the industrial era was about making a lot of stuff and convincing enough buyers to consume it, the Social Era is about the power of communities, of collaboration and co-creation. In the industrial era, power was from holding what we valued closed and separate; in the Social Era, there is another framework for how we engage one another – an open one.”
Using the term social media marketing may be a bit redundant seeing as how marketing has always been a social industry. The change comes from the fact that these interactions and relationships are now much stronger and much more powerful than they were previously. In order for a business to succeed in the quickly changing consumer landscape, it must adapt and reflect these changes in their business model.
Social platforms, and to some extent the progression of the way businesses are created and developed, have given some balance and equality between those running a business and those interacting and purchasing from it. Slowly the stark contrast between the two is being broken down and companies that embrace this mentality have seen huge success in social media.
With that in mind it is possible that a small business is more ideally positioned to take advantage of the “social era.” While they may lack the marketing budget of their corporate counterparts, the ability of a small business to adapt its business model and reflect the needs and wants of their audience more accurately and quickly. As stated in HBR, “The industrial era primarily honored the institution as a construct of creating value. And the information age (inclusive of Web 1.0 and web 2.0 phases) primarily honored the value that data could provide to institutional value creation. It allowed for great efficiency to do the same things that were done in the industrial era. The Social Era honors the value creation starting with the single unit of a connected human.”
For companies to take full advantage of the technology and tools that are now available, they must be ready for the exchange and open flow of ideas that is now not only possible, but prominent: “Companies cannot survive…without recognizing that Social as a phenomenon can allow us to redefine our organizations to be inherently more fast fluid and flexible by its very design.” In order to succeed in the future, businesses will need to understand and harness the power of the community.
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