I think that the company of today needs to be in it for more than just the pursuit of profit; unless we expand the definition of profit to include customer loyalty, employee retention, valuable insights, increased speed of innovation, and the contribution to overall social welfare.
A business that simply looks at the world in dollars and cents is missing a world of opportunity. As a businesses, and as a society, we have the opportunity to move past winners and losers, and we do that by shifting our focus from simply maximizing of profits to creating shared value.
I’m not saying profit is bad, I’m saying that profit, today, is the byproduct of understanding the bigger picture.
Read on and I’ll explain further.
The New Customer
Customers today are more open, more connected, and more vocal. They have different expectations of brands because the social norms of today are different than even 5 years ago. As customers now have the ability to influence brand perceptions on a mass scale, the company of today (and tomorrow) will need to be much more engaged with its customers. Customers know that the balance of power has shifted in their favor. Even if one comment cannot break a company, hundreds, thousands or in some cases millions of voices can.
But today’s customers aren’t just online to complain. Quite the contrary, in many cases they are there to contribute, to advocate and to promote. Customers are inclined to talk about things they like, share good stories as much as bad, and help companies that they believe in, or who’s values mimic their own.
Today’s customer is more aware, more informed and is privy to more options. They make their buying decisions based on a myriad of factors, sometimes price, sometimes something deeper.
Because customers have greater access to information, they can make their buying decisions on whatever factors they choose based upon what is important to them.
Old Marketing with a New Hat
People aren’t lining up to like your Facebook page just to hear you talk about yourself. In spite of all of the advertising options on Social Media, these are not ad platforms. Some marketers might disagree, but who cares…don’t ask a marketer, ask the average person. The average person isn’t on social media for your “messaging.”
You’re not on Twitter just because it’s going to make you more money, if you are, you’re missing the point, and you probably won’t make more money. If the sole reason you are involved in social media is because you are seduced by the potential reach or the fact that it is cheaper than traditional methods of marketing, you should stop and consider the following:
- People join SOCIAL networks to be SOCIAL, not to be marketed to. Connecting with other people is the first motivation.
- Customers are talking and they can talk anywhere they want. In many cases, if they are talking about you, it’s likely not on your pages or owned social media sites.
- Customers are searching for information, and they can get it from places other than you.
- Marketing to everyone is marketing to no one, if you don’t have values and a position, you are vanilla and easy to ignore.
But most importantly remember this: customers are people, and they are much more complex than walking wallets looking to buy things. As a great man once said: “people don’t browse the Facebook Newsfeed with their wallets in their hands.”
The New Lighthouse
If you understand today’s customer and how that has changed marketing, then the next step is to understand that if want to win in today’s marketplace, specifically as it relates to Social Media, you need to ensure that you are not just thinking of this as a game to maximize financial profit.
Expand your mind.
Even though it seems as though attention spans are shorter (and the are), we are in an era where relationships are becoming more important than ever, and relationships develop over time; think long term.
You’re not just on Social Media to make more money. Your new lighthouse, to guide you through the darkness and uncertainty of Social Media is this:
Listen to and learn from your customers and employees
Keep quiet now and again, and really listen. Customers and employees can help you spot problem areas and highlight your greatest assets. A customer that feels listened to feels appreciated; an employee that feels heard and recognized for their contributions will be more motivated and likely stay with the company longer.
Do the RIGHT thing
Trust in the fact that doing the right thing for your customers and employees will benefit you over the long term. The cash register doesn’t need to ring every time you’re helpful. When you create content, follow Jay Baer’s advice and create utility (Youtility). That means starting off by helping, not selling.
Have a purpose and talk about it
Do what you do for a reason; there is good to be done in the world. Make sure your company is about more than just helping itself or its investors get wealthy. People want a better world; make the world wealthy and tell people how you are going to do it.
Purpose is both an incredible motivator for your employees and a means by which customers can connect with you at a deeper level. You’ll keep a customer a lot longer if they align with your purpose and values than if they like your pricing.
Whatever you do…don’t take a position because you think it will increase sales. Be authentic, choose a position and do work that matters. These are the hallmark traits of companies that are remarkable and worth connecting to. Customers will only stick around so long for your funny cat memes on Facebook, but if you align with their values, you may keep them for life.
Profit will come, believe me. But the emergence of social technologies has brought about a new world for businesses, one in which there are more factors to consider, and more opportunities for all stakeholders to mutually benefit in addition to profit.