There’s an online dating site that asks you to list, among other things, the “6 things you can’t live without”. Double negative aside, it’s incredibly interesting to see what people select as their top 6. Some list family, smart phones, transportation, or food, but my list always includes the internet. Although I’m old enough to remember a time before mainstream adoption of the internet, I honestly cannot imagine what my life today would be like without it.
The truth is that the internet has changed all of our lives. There are the obvious examples: Google, Facebook, e-mail; but underneath the apps, interfaces, and programs, there is also evidence of a more subtle shift in the ways that we think, communicate, and act. For better or worse, we are now fundamentally different thanks to the connectivity and accessibility of the internet, the very essence of which is harnessed via social media.
But I don’t love social media simply because it’s proliferate or because it’s changed the way I interact with others; I love social media because, in a concrete and indisputable way it has leveled the playing field. Small businesses and entrepreneurs that can harness the power of social media (which is for the most part free) can see incredible impact in their relationship with consumers/fans/community almost overnight, and large businesses are forced to use the same tools to reach their audience, lest they be left out in the cold and deemed irrelevant.
With the right amount of effort and engagement, a small business can make a much more significant impact on consumers (and thus drive sales) via new media than with all other old media (t.v., radio, cold calling, ad inserts) combined! The consumers of today are on Facebook checking up on friends, they’re on Twitter finding out about what’s happening around them, they’re on Tumblr figuring out what’s cool, on YouTube trying to see who’s next – the list is endless. The audience is out there if you only reach out and grab them, regardless of your capital, global market shares, or quarterly profits.
As a consumer, I love social media because it gives me the power to ask more from the places where I choose to spend my money, to share the things I love (and the things I don’t) with others, and to feel like I’m part of the engagement process – my feelings, preferences, and needs matter on a scale never before possible.
As a marketing/PR professional, I love social media because I am constantly in touch with what others think/feel/need around my brand, I can more easily network with potential customers and even competitors in the interest of creating a more complete consumer experience, and I can engage the community in a very real way that cuts past the flashy neon-fakeness that often comes with marketing and gets straight through to basic human connections and providing products and services that move because they add value, not because I have more money to throw behind a campaign.
How do you feel about the internet? Are you a different consumer/marketer than you would be without it?