Towards the end of 2009, millions of people and thousands of businesses, large and small, have tapped into the power of social media. Bloggers have leveraged the power of the written word, writing about a myriad of topics: The weather outside; product or service reviews; entertainment reviews; or their point of view about local and world events, among countless other topics. Businesses, on the other hand, have leveraged social media to promote their existing website and provide customer service and feedback. Tech-savvy bloggers and businesses owners have leveraged social media technology in order to promote themselves across a wide array of social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube. Does so much connectivity mean that people and businesses can succeed in promotions and marketing using just these tools?
Yes and no.
Bloggers with strong followings need only continue to write. No, we do not have to write every single day, but as long as we provide output every few days and remain responsive to the people who read and comment on our entries, we won’t disappear from the blogosphere.
Business owners, on the other hand, focus first and foremost on their business. The use of signage, printed ads in the newspaper and Yellow Pages, and even local television or radio coverage may be more commonplace in regards to marketing for most businesses, but the use of social media is, indeed, foreign territory. Some business owners make an attempt to enter the realm of social media, setting up an account with Facebook or Twitter and updating their profiles or making Tweets in the beginning. Sooner or later, however, business owners fall back on their business, retreating from the use of social media and returning to their accounts, but usually only if an occasional user decides to add them.
Does all seem lost for business owners that have seemingly failed to embrace social media? Not in the slightest. The hundreds of millions of users on social networking sites are seemingly a great source of potential customers. Some business owners, however, may still see social media as a novelty that does not fit the needs of their business. While they are not yet ready to embrace this new form of marketing and promotion, what they do fall back on is possibly the most important element in business: the human element.
Why do businesses have repeat customers? A large part of the answer concerns the business’ ability to create a customer-centered experience. Businesses must focus on the customer experience at all levels of the business, without relegating the role to marketing or operations alone. The impression left on the customers by a business intent on winning their loyalty is much more favorable and positive than the impression left by businesses whose intent is to sell, and nothing else.
Business owners may choose to go forward into 2010 without any changes to their exiting marketing plans including the use of social media. Even if they do decide to embrace social media, it can not be used to separate the human element that endears customers to the businesses. Technology or otherwise, people come first.