When most people think of social media, brick and mortar are some of the last things that come to mind. The very term inspires visions of futuristic online communities with data whizzing past and superficial, digital connections abound. All of the technological terms, 140 character limits and lightning-speed advancements distract from a particular fundamental for business owners to not only consider, but capitalize on: social media is allowing that distant time when intimate conversations between businesses and their customers were de rigueur to make a major comeback.
Feeling dubious? That may be because the term “shopkeeper” doesn’t apply to you, and chances are you don’t live in a tiny village where you know your customers’ maiden names, kids’ birthdays and/or darkest secrets. But consider this: recent data shows that 26% of online conversations mention brands. That’s a whole quarter of a pie! Time to loosen your buckle and dive in, because more recent data shows that 20-50% of all purchasing decisions are influenced by online word-of-mouth. Wait, so you mean people are checking out brands online before they buy products, and chances are that if businesses don’t have a strong presence, consumers will look elsewhere? BINGO! That’s exactly what we mean. If this were the olden days and you did live in that small village mentioned above, a bad business transaction could quickly soil your reputation. The same set of circumstances applies again now, except in an even bigger way. Consumers are airing their opinions publicly, and they’re using social media to do it. It’s just like having a hushed conversation with your neighbor that slowly makes its way around town…except its on the internet for millions to see. Oops.
The good news is that just like in those days of yore, you have a chance to redeem yourself by making the decision to be transparent and establish goodwill with your consumer base. For some years now, businesses have been able to hide behind TV commercials, glossy print ads, fancy billboards and 1-800 numbers. Now, we are obligated to to actually listen to our customers. You can’t hide behind social media, because it is not only social for consumers, its social for brands, and that is what people have come to expect. If you’re not there to answer, talk or listen, you might as well close up shop.