Watching the stream of tweets from the Forrester’s Consumer Forum today, three themes come to mind: Social IS what it used to be; we are ubiquitously connected through many devices; and mobile, in whatever form you choose isn’t the future: It’s the NOW.
When I say social IS what it used to be, I mean history. Before newspapers and broadcast media, word of mouth was the key driver of influence and stories was the medium. Today, we share more tidbits about our lives with more people than we may have ever met prior to social networks. The shift from companies trying to give you their message to people sharing their own perceptions is now nearly complete. Perception remains reality and stories convey the message. Companies that are listening and engaging with prospects and customers have a seat at table where the discussions take place. In reality, companies never did own their message, the people did. Today we have reached the point where more people are creating more content about companies than any one company could ever hope to match. Forrester estimates that there are now 500 billion impressions made between people on social media about brands. That, my friends, is a lot of perception.
To quote @Forrester, the official Twitter voice of Forrester Research, “Treat customers as a channel: identify mass influencers; deliver Groundswell cust. service; empower with mobile; amplify fan activity.”
The abbreviations in the quote are due to the 140 character limit on Twitter. It is, in part that brevity that makes Twitter such a good tool for more ideas per second than any other existing platform.
Customers aren’t just using their computers to share their real-time views. They are using their mobile devices and iPads and up next, a whole line of Android –based tablets. To quote @Forrester: “Ubiquitously connected consumer is a widespread reality: 105 million US adults have at least 2 connected devices… .” That number will continue to grow.
With this many customers talking about where they are, who has great (and lacking) customer experiences, there needs to be a whole new view of what is great customer support – both pre- and post-sales—has become.
Face it: the sales funnel is history. Customers can find your company and research your products before traditional marketing can find them. Businesses need to listen to blogs, social media sites and other areas where people are talking about them. Employees need to learn how to listen and react. That means training in trademarks, branding, basic legal principals and mostly one key concept: don’t be stupid. (I have heard the “don’t be stupid” social media policy credited to both IBM and Hubspot).
Next up: companies like SquareUp will let you sell items from your mobile device; you will pay for groceries with your mobile device and even elements of your identity will be attached to that same device. I’m not talking five years, I’m talking NOW.
In the words of Groundswell co-author and Forrester analyst, “Only an empowered worker can serve an empowered consumer.”