A lot of people say that we are about to enter a ‘Post-Digital’ world. Well, I would say, let’s stop talking about it as something yet to happen. It is already here and we are up to our eyes in it. It’s a world, where people come first. It’s a revolution, where word-of-mouth, the most persuasive media of all, is king. And it’s the very reason why Lady Gaga tweets messages and pictures to her 24 million Twitter fans, and iconic brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Apple, et al, interact with their consumers on a real-time basis through Facebook.
If you too are in the business of selling, then you are game to this revolution. Believe it or not, digital has taken over our lives. The reason is simple. As humans, we are hardwired not to live alone. For instance, there’s no way you’ll not speak even once to the passenger sitting next to you over a long-haul flight. And the very reason social media has engulfed almost everything is that it revolves around communication. Marketers who live by statistics might disagree, but ‘social’ is probably the most vital element that completes the very concept of globalisation. I mean think about it; there was a time when there were limited shops selling select products to a certain number of households. You never had to bargain and almost always you got the best deal because the shopkeeper knew you and your family personally. Soon, globalisation started seeping in and markets witnessed unprecedented proliferation of new brands. As corporations selling these brands expanded it became almost impossible for them to communicate with consumers. But here’s the catch. They realised this was more convenient. A message had to be funneled through and consumers had no choice but to consume it. Even if someone out there had a problem, he wouldn’t be a threat. How could this one alienated customer possibly speak ill about a brand to its million odd patrons? Further, everything could be just put onto a PowerPoint presentation. The insights were actionable and made great forecasts. What fun! But not anymore. The phenomenal rise of social networks, blogs, search engines, mobile and almost anything related to the world wide web has put the power back in the hands of the consumers. Try to ignore customer feedback/requests and you might find yourself in a more painful situation than you would have actually thought.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson got a taste of what an angry customer could do when one Giorgio Galante decided to vent out his frustration through a blog. Galante had asked AT&T for an early iPhone upgrade. For this, he wrote an email to the CEO. Instead of a customer care executive reaching out to help, he received a voice mail threatening legal action if he tried to contact the CEO again. He later received an apology from a VP, but by then the blog had gone viral and much of the damage was done.
Thus, companies which underestimate the relevance of social media will suffer. Its effects may not be immediate, but over the long run it’ll just become impossible to catch up. So, if you’ve a veteran heading the social media bench at your company who tells you that everything is under control, kick him out immediately because nothing is in control. Unlike traditional media, companies don’t own these platforms. They’re evolving everyday. Therefore, you’d do better by hiring a crazy looking chap who’s matured in the digital age. He’ll know what to do. After all, you can’t derive the value of emotional connect customers have with the brand by putting the number of ‘likes’ and ‘tweets’ into a statistical equation. The customer is no longer your muse, so try falling in love with her. Cheers to the consumer!