Monday, July 30, 2012

Who Says Social Networking Doesn't Work?

Recently I had an experience involving LinkedIn that spurred a thought and inspired me to share the story with you here. As you may suspect from the title of this post, my story is going to have something to do with "proof" that time vested in social networking can reap rewards for you, even when you least expect it. Here's the story...

Last week a couple of my international WSI colleagues who know my love of the banking sector shared a link to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report entitled "The New Digital Tipping Point" and how banking is facing the steepest challenge in over a generation. The report suggests that a new tipping point has been reached and the fulcrum is the shift towards going digital. Great information, so I decided to share "socially" and send it along to my connections.

While there certainly are many banking industry-specific statistics and information in the report, there are just as many references to the evolution of the consumer that are relevant to almost any industry. Below are five key elements (shared on page five of the report) with my perspective on how the lessons can be extended to your business (even if it's not banking). I'll also give you a little hint... social media
  1. Consumers Expect More - The lines are being blurred between industries and if you have a stellar experience with one business, then it's an expectation that your business should be able to deliver the same experience. Technology is available to make the customer experience a richer, more fulfilling experience. Are you taking advantage of it in your business?
  2. Consumers Trust Their Peers - We can thank social networking for this fact, as it has become almost too easy to read the thoughts and opinions of what others are saying. Whether it's good or bad, people are posting what's on their mind - and it's all there for us to read.
  3. Consumers Are More Informed - This another area where digital has caused a huge shift in the way we get our information. We've got instant access to experts, research and almost an overload of data on virtually any topic we could want to lean more about. Gone are the days when we, as business owners, have the opportunity to educate our customers. They do that all by themselves, most of the time before they even contact us.
  4. Consumers Have Choices - With technology allowing us to conveniently shop not only across town, but across the country (even the world), consumers have more choices now than ever. While some may argue that having too many choices is "information overload", it reinforces that if you're not on your game, you can be quickly (and easily) replaced.
  5. Consumers Have a Voice -While you may not recognize the name Molly Katchpole, this 20-something old intern from Washington DC was the young lady that started the online petition on to get Bank of America (the largest bank in the country) to reconsider their $5 monthly debit card fee. Have you stopped over to Google, Yelp or any other social networking site lately to see what people are saying about YOUR business? As referenced in #2 above, consumers are trusting what others are saying and even a lone voice can help to topple even the largest behemoth when they put their mind to it.
So, what's all this got to do with "proving" social networking works? Well, as soon as I got the link I hopped over to LinkedIn and did a quick network update with a link to download the report. One of my connections, who also does a regular podcast radio show focused on small businesses and technology, clicked on my post and checked it out. Later that afternoon I received a call from someone in his office asking me to come on his show and provide additional commentary on the report, and what its findings mean for businesses.

The show is called Bottom Line IT and featured on the Michigan Business Network. Who knows just how many people will be tuned in to hear the show (or catch the replay). The important thing to note here is the only reason I'm being asked to be on the show is that I took the time to share an interesting article with my connections, which obviously spurred some thought and an interest in bringing me on the show.

While I'm not going to profess to be the author of the report, I will be sharing my perspective on not only what it means for banking, but businesses in general (as touched on above). As any business owner knows, if you get a chance to talk about what you know in a setting where you've been invited as the "expert" that can be a real opportunity... all because I took 30 seconds to create a post and share it with my connections on LinkedIn!

Have you been surprised (in a good way) by social networking recently? If so, share your story in the comments. I'd love to hear all about it.

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