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Social Media and Change Management

Robert Saunders - Friday, December 09, 2011

Managing Social Media.  Times are changing, are you?

You might recall that way back in the 90’s, one of the buzz words in business was “Change Management”.    Executives and managers were realizing that change was inevitable.  Business could either let change happen on its own course, or they could engage in the changing environment and strategically adapt their business to meet new challenges.   If you think about it, the one constant in business is change, and nothing has changed so dramatically as how we interact socially.

We hear constantly from business owners that they refuse to engage in social media because (1) they perceive that it will consume their time, and (2) that it is mindless and irrelevant.    This approach to social media ignores some very dramatic changes in how consumers chose to engage with your business.  

First, as social animals, we like to talk to others about our positive and negative encounters.   Before the internet, one individuals reach was limited to just a few friends and neighbors.   But oh how that has changed!   The reality today is that one individual has the power to reach millions.   Just ask United Airlines what happened when they broke one man’s guitar.   As of the date of this post, this one man’s message on Youtube has reached over 11,000,000 people.  Astounding!   Whether you are engaged or not, people are likely talking about you and your business online and people are listening.

Second, social media has changed the way we shop for the goods and services we want or need.   Before social media, we had to rely on how businesses advertised their products.   Through slick marketing and promotion, we were sold on products and services by the image the advertiser wanted us to perceive.      Truth in advertising was something we had to take on faith. Word of mouth was limited to our closest friends and neighbors.  But again, oh how things have changed!     Today, people like to engage in the conversation that is going on about us.   One individual now has the ability to express his or her (re)views to potentially thousands or millions of people.   Shoppers are being conditioned to seek the words of others regarding our goods and services.   They naturally gravitate away from those that have overly negative conversations about them and towards those that are favorable.  

Another interesting change in this mix happens when we chose not to engage in social media, or to otherwise remain invisible.    Take as an example an automotive repair shop.   We’ll certainly avoid a shop that has a bad reputation for poor service or questionable tactics.   A shop with this kind of reputation likely has plenty of online conversations that will warn us away.   On the other hand, if other consumers give a particular shop a good vote of confidence, we’ll likely give them a try.   But as consumers, if we have a choice between the shop that is engaged and has a good online reputation, and one that can’t be found at all, where are we likely to go?   Having no visible presence online is almost as bad as having a bad reputation.

So as consumers change in the way they engage businesses, businesses have an opportunity to either manage that change and position themselves as the consumers choice, to not engage and allow negative conversation to drive consumers away, or to remain invisible.   It’s your choice to change.




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