We know the internet was a big deal. What most people didn’t see coming was how big of a deal it would be in such a short amount of time — or how it would so swiftly go from being a slow, sometimes treacherous monstrosity to something the world simply couldn’t live without, and something that we demanded be accessible anytime, anywhere. Now that it’s exploded into today’s trifecta of social, mobile and cloud platforms, the way we work is changing drastically.

The question is: can we keep up?

Social: The Art of Networking, Connecting and Branding

The pre-internet era was a simpler time for businesses in a lot of ways. For companies that wanted to expand, the expectations were more involved, but they were fewer — you needed skilled sales people and a good product that solved a direct problem or met a specific need. Networking meant travel, meetings and long lunches with important people. Maintaining customers was more a matter of having the best solution than it was about engaging with your audience, and unless you were teeing off or sifting brandy together, retaining customers was all about closing deals and keeping ahead of competitors.

Social networking made it personal.

Customers today take brands very seriously, and so do the people marketing them. Because users want engagement available on every level (and they want to dictate it), marketers have to use metrics to determine successful patterns of promotion, not just clever campaigns. Companies need to deliver a philosophy that speaks to users without exclusively selling to them, and brands have to embody a slice of culture: relevant, smart, creative and solid, with a clear message and willingness to evolve alongside their audience.

Mobile: Access is Everything

Mobility has made us demanding, and more than that, utterly impatient. Businesses must bend their internal and external strategies to the capabilities of mobile devices, and your brand better have enough of a conscious online presence to respond to issues and conversations more or less immediately. A lack of continuous and fluid accessibility is a sign to your audience — and your employees — that you can’t keep up with them.

Workforces have always been somewhat of a reflection of an organization’s customer base. As BYOD takes hold on the modern workplace, in-office mobile workers are proving that “the nature of work and work styles are evolving right alongside the technological advancements that enable them.” The use of mobile apps is shaping expectations surrounding desktop interfaces, too. Notes Tom Petrocelli of CMS Wire, “Mobile applications pave the way for all applications to become easier to use and more suited for very specific constituents, even when they connect to a back-end, multifaceted system.” What that means for developers is that, while the desktop software or service might be your bread-and-butter, consumers demand it be as slick as the mobile app and that the product be fully-functional regardless of platform.

Cloud: Redefining the Consumer

One of the greatest benefits of cloud-based storage and software is that changes in functionality and security can be managed with minimal disruption or effort on the part of the user. Limitless space and not depending on consumers to download and install updates have made IT management simpler, too. Whereas software buyers used to primarily consist of organizations and tech professionals, consumer technology is now the norm.

This shift in buying power means that the role of software pros is changing, too. Their knowledge is still advanced, certainly, but it’s no longer unique, pushing them into a space more like that of a consultant than a gatekeeper. Sales tactics have to be reassessed so that companies can address this new breed of customer, so redefining needs, adopting engagement techniques, and employing new language will be paramount.

The digital world is a malleable entity, but one thing is for certain: the triumvirate of social, mobile and cloud is the arena in which companies will now fight for customers and expansion — and that’s going to require some serious agility.

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