In the new reality of social media, almost all of our relationships (both personal and professional) now take shape and develop, at least in part, in a virtual and public space.
And, even if you are in the subset of people who choose not to participate in any sort of social media, your relationships can still be affected by your choice not to participate online. (For example, a friend of mine once told me that he rarely keeps in touch with anyone that is not on Facebook.)
For better or worse, social media has now replaced a good portion of the traditional face-to-face interactions many of us have relied on to maintain and strengthen our personal relationships before Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook entered into our lives.
Interestingly enough, the same holds true for the relationships between a company and its consumers. But what social media has now done for this “consumer-brand relationship” (which, by the way, is now a vibrant and important subdiscipline of research in marketing) is substantially shift the power away from the company and into the hands of the consumer.
Just think about it — this shift is very easy to spot. The traditional “one-to-many” types of company promotional elements that disseminate information to and persuade consumers (e.g., traditional forms of advertising, personal selling and direct marketing) do not nicely fit into the new social media marketplace, do they?
As consumers, we now have much more power to minimize or even eliminate their effectiveness. Compare how many advertisements you actually allow to finish on YouTube before you get to watch your selected video versus how many times you click on the “Skip Ad” link. If you are like me, save for the occasional movie trailer, I’m more likely to be counting down each second of the five-second wait with my cursor positioned in the exact spot of where the “Skip Ad” will eventually appear. And keep in mind that my profession involves marketing.
Additionally, consumers now speak to each other on social media about the brands they like and don’t like, bypassing the power and influence of the respective brand entirely in these conversations.
Such conversations have led some companies to alter their own traditional communications and promotional strategies to reinsert their voices and overall influence in these conversations, which are happening without them.
The increasing trend of open “social media coordinator” job positions within companies has exploded and will most likely continue to thrive as long as social media is around and so influential in our lives as consumers. Just type in these three words into Google and note how many job positions pop up in your results.
On the positive side for companies, a strategic reallocation of resources can typically lead to substantial marketing return-on-investment, which is a reflection of the new and exciting opportunities for companies in the social media environment.
A good number of us are now measuring effectiveness both in our personal and professional lives by the number of likes, retweets, shares, favorites, comments, etc. we generate for ourselves on social media. Companies need to follow along and make these social media measures a priority in their own business models and strategies.
Michael Coolsen is professor and interim associate dean at the John L. Grove College of Business at Shippensburg University. His email is email@example.com.