Technology has evolved so rapidly over the past decade that it's difficult to remember what life was like at the turn of the century. Since that point in time, we've been introduced to smartphones, tablets, wearable technology; sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter; wireless Internet; and thousands of things in between.
There's no denying that changes in technology have affected how family and friends interact with one another, but what about how business and their customers interact? Some would say that the effects are even more profound, and the results are more permanent. If you narrow your sights further and focus on social media alone, the effects are incredible. From a business perspective, there are positives and negatives. Here are a few of them:
Customers Have All the Power
Whether you want to admit it or not, social media took a lot of control away from big businesses and put the power firmly in the hands of customers. In the past, when a customer had a bad experience with a brand, their story was confined to a small group of family and friends. Now, with social media, an angry customer can voice his or her opinion for millions of users to see (just check out these horror stories). Social media has required businesses to invest in better customer service - which, nobody can deny, is a good thing.
Businesses Can Become More Visible
On the flipside, businesses have gained an advantage in terms of visibility. Businesses that are able to invest in social media are capable of increasing their footprint exponentially. A small business in South Florida can now sell to customers in Northern California without picking up the phone and making a cold call. Social media has torn down geographical borders and allowed customers and businesses to connect from practically anywhere.
Quick Access to Feedback
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Before social media, businesses had to invest a lot of time and effort into garnering feedback for new, or existing, products. Now, all it takes is a simple post. You can ask people to try your product, get them to tell you about their experiences with a service, or find out why sales are slow - without leaving the office.
Though it's not easy to build a social media presence, once it's up and running, it can be used as a free marketing and advertising tool. With thousands of followers, and millions more just a few clicks away, anybody you need to reach can be found.
You can decide whether it's a good or bad thing for your business, but the reality is that social media has increased competition in all industries. You're no longer just competing with business in your neighborhood or immediate community. You're up against everyone.
Before social media, a viral piece of content may have been a funny chain email or a video that was picked up by a few dozen news stations. Now, viral content has the ability to reach millions of people - instantaneously - while allowing those users to interact with one another for everyone to see. In fact, viral content has become such a crucial success factor for many businesses that they invest large portions of their marketing budget toward creating content that gets passed around and shared.
The Ever-Changing Nature of Social Media
Which of these do you believe has had the biggest impact on the business-consumer relationship? Regardless of whether you're a business owner or a consumer, there's no denying the profound and long-term effects social media has had. It'll be interesting to see where things go from here, as new social networking platforms like Periscope and Meerkat introduce the world to the capabilities of live streaming.