Why is Social Media Different?

Why is Social Media Different?

Old Way and New Way

Let’s take a quick look at one of the biggest shifts in how businesses and organizations relate to their clients and customers.  First is the old way, the chart on the left.  The old way consisted of top-down information flow, transmission.  Imagine a radio antennae shooting out waves into the air.  It didn’t matter if anyone was tuned in or not, the tower was broadcasting and it was up to you to catch the signal.  In old-school communication this is how it was, a one-way medium.

Now let’s look a the chart on the right… The New Way.  Communication in the new model consists of parallel streams of communication going back and forth between the customer and the business.  There’s no longer just a broadcasting tower, there’s now multiple broadcasting towers, each equipped with a receiver.  So everyone is now broadcasting and receiving and businesses are now not just transmitting but receiving as well.  This is CO-mmunication, dialogue and interchanging of information.  It’s a 2-way street where traffic is going both directions.

Both models have strengths and weaknesses.  In the old model it’s easier to know what to do.  You gather your content and shoot it out and hope people have their ears open to it.  But the drawback is that there is no cultural ownership in what your business is doing, nor do you have a good sense as to how people are responding to your product, what they like and don’t like about it or what else they’d like to see from your company.

The new model contains extraordinary power for capturing more data than ever in terms of customer’s interests, beliefs, values and opinions surrounding your product and brand.  The conversations are clear and honest and one has only to open the channel to peer into the customer’s world.  The possibilities for precise targeting of customer interests and for overall product success (for business owners and customers) is unparalleled.  But the drawback is that it takes time and patience to get there.  You have to be willing to listen. A business owner has to be ready to hear the negative, be shocked at some horror stories and cultivate the time necessary to sort through it all.  The payoff however is far greater than the work it takes to get there.

Now let’s get honest.  A lot of organizational leaders do not come to the New Model naturally.  It’s just not something that sounds exciting or easy.  The idea of collaborating on product development with a swath of unprofessional and capricious customers does not sound like a great way to invest precious leadership capital.  You can sense it in the air; a scraping resistance to new models and methods because of an over-arching fear that it opens the door to unconstructive blabber.

So what do we do?  The key for modern business leaders is to realize that this paradigm shift is happening with or without them.  This isn’t a prediction about where things are headed, this is a real-time portrait about how things are right now.  Companies that don’t shift will suffer.  The question is how to jump in wisely yet with boldness.  It’s a mindset change but it is something you can ease into.  Take it one step at a time.  Gather your resources, ask people that know, check out some case studies.  Remember, your business is the best when it’s doing what it’s supposed to do the best.  That never changes.  But your methods and models are temporary, there’s nothing sacred about them.  Be flexible and open the door a little wider.  It’s time.

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