Gary Vaynerchuk is considered a big deal in the marketing world. Big Deal capital B, capital D is probably more accurate. Sometimes I like what he says, other times I think it’s a bit much. This analogy he once shared, however, has stuck with me.
Just a few generations ago, people shopped in close proximity to where they lived. Each town had a butcher or two, but people generally went to the same butcher their mothers went to, and they the same butcher as their mothers before that. There was never a need to go anywhere else and shop around, because “The” butcher was dependable: he knew every family that came through his doors, the service was always great, and the product was always fresh. The butcher made sure of this, because one bad customer experience and word would spread through town like wildfire. Other options may have been limited, but if there was another shop within a reasonable distance, business could be easy to lose. Be the best for your customers each day, or they (and their social circle) would be quick to move on.
But then things began to change. Cars became more popular and made it easier for people to travel further, giving them more options of where to spend their money. Then, along with the spread of the internet, came online shopping, and suddenly it was possible to order anything from anywhere in the world. Brand and store loyalty began to change. At first, people became more private, turning away from gossiping and sharing news at the local PTA meeting that once would have put a butcher out of business.
In the early 2000s, when social media hit the scene, the mostly-silent internet that people had been using as a service turned into the small-town PTA meeting that had been left behind. People began using social sites and services to talk to each other again. Good and bad news and opinions were shared openly.
“The silent, anonymous, private Internet suddenly turned extremely chatty, personal, and revealing. Small-town living moved online as people eagerly sought out each other’s latest news. Our morning social media browse to check in on what everyone has been up to became the equivalent of the old-timers’ early morning stroll to the diner for pancakes and coffee. We check Facebook and comment on a friend’s photo of her new shoes (which we know without asking are Kate Spades and were bought at Nordstrom’s because she said so in her status update) the same way we once would have remarked, “You look lovely in that hat, Marge,” as we passed by our neighbour.”
Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy
See, at first glance it looks like the world has changed drastically from that small-town lifestyle, where everyone knew everyone at you shopped at the same butcher your family always did. But in reality, we’ve taken that open communication and sharing and have moved it online – to share with a much, much larger audience.
What does this mean for business? It means that your customers’ reviews no longer reach the outer limits of town: they can reach clear across the globe.
When consumers are looking for a product they need, they research individual companies just as much as they do the product itself. Being $5 cheaper just isn’t enough to win business from your competitors anymore, as people look to shop from stores that align with their personal values. This is where social media comes in handy. This is your avenue to:
show potential customers your brand values
showcase your products and the problem they solve
build relationships with consumers before they even buy from you
provide excellent customer service to consumers who don’t even have to leave their couch to ask you questions or order your products
intersect complaints and make it right.
This last point is important. If someone is unhappy with your product or service, often making it right can showcase your company in an even better light than if your customer was happy to begin with. Companies that care go a long way in the eyes of consumers. But if you’re not online to respond to comments and complaints, not only can you not do anything about it, but you don’t even know there are negative reviews out there!
Social media is the online version of the small town we all remember, where everyone knew everyone and everyone knew the best spots in town. You want to make sure you’re a part of that conversation – to build relationships, reward your customers, and to right and wrongs that may occur.