The onset of Social Media has altered the whole communications pattern. Used to be the company was in control of communications. Yes, an unhappy customer could write a letter or call an 800 number. But the manufacturer could keep a problem bottled up and fix it their own way. Now, a problem can come out of the closet in minutes and spread all over the Internet.
But crisis management is only part of the story. Add in customer service, marketing and market analysis. There is a definite ROI for businesses. We can point to specific campaigns run on social platforms such as the Orbitz Travel Ticket Giveaway. It used to be all about "engagement" with customers, now ROI is visible. You get as many page clicks on Social Media as you get from a Google ad .....and at no cost!
Social media is no longer just a platform for communication. It can be used very effectively in combination with sales channels, digital or physical, and be directly linked to revenues. An example is how Coca-Cola used Facebook to create flavors of their Vitamin Water.
Social Media has revolutionized the relationship between businesses and their customers; so much so that B2C (Business to Consumer) has been referred to as C2B (Consumer to Business).
What kind of trends do we see? (1) Customer service is strengthened. For example, big retailers have added platforms on their WebSites where customers can interact with one another using Q and A forums. They can even write product reviews for all to see. (2) Bringing together the old and the new. One example is "Pop Up Shops". They use a sample of products and have a page that is a marriage of new digital technology to older traditional approaches. (3) Going from print to digital marketing by starting with a good WebSite and enhancing with Social Media. Now what is driving all of these retail trends in addition to Social Media? How about environmental awareness, increased on-line shopping and rise in the senior population.
It has been said that retailers either lead trend or follow trend and loose out to the competition. Social Media has been a huge influence on the fashion industry. Something unusual "goes wild" over night in the Social Media. A fashion model wearing a hula hoop hand bag generated thousands of "tweets" and "likes". Then there is "Me-Tailing" where shoppers want Social Media to research and select personalized products and services.
Social Media can be divided into: (1) public sites more consumer-related like Facebook and Twitter. These are where your corporation Social Media needs to be. (2) public sites better suited for business to business. Google+ has "Circles"& "Hangouts" and LinkedIn has "Groups" & "Connections". (3) Private Social Media is a single company owning it's own internal platform. Best example is the General Electric Social Collaboration network (COLAB). (4) "Hybrid" Social Networks (business-social) are available to the public but allow an extended company (your suppliers, distributors, 3PL logistics) to act as a private platform and still use the platform to follow prospects and even competitors.