Did you know, the eye of a cyclone is normally between 30km-65km (20-40mi) across? It’s a plain of calm in the midst of the rising chaos, the rushing winds savaging everything outside the wall of weather. In some ways, this feels like where we are right now in marketing and communications, the eye of the storm. Inside, it’s fine, the things that have always worked still work, the things that will form the future are growing but are not at a tipping point just yet, not at that level of business necessity. We’re operating in a time of imminent change, where we can see it coming and we’re caught in that plain where we’re either going to be proactive or we’re going to be too late. Who knows, maybe it’ll miss us completely?
The Digital Shift
Things have changed. It’s clear that the advent of social media has transformed the way we communicate, the way we interact with the world around us. This has lead to a consumer shift, the path to purchase has fundamentally transitioned to a new configuration. Whereas once people would go online, looking for a source that could provide what they needed, now people look up various sources, then seek further clarification via reviews and blogs and their social media circles. By the time they reach the transactional stage, they’re already well informed, well aware of what they need and want, and how much they need to pay to get it. Access to informational sources is now so far beyond anything we’ve ever had before, and exposure to word-of-mouth recommendation is also unprecedented, without comparison to how things have been any time in the past.
Social media and the wider digital landscape has had an undeniably adaptive effect on the purchase process – if you’re brand is not available, not present to hear and respond at the relevant stages of that cycle, you’re already losing ground, a pattern that’ll continue the longer you fail to move in line with evolving consumer requirements. And starting is the key element here – many brands haven’t yet had to wade into digital platforms, are still able to rely on what’s always worked for them. And besides, social media ROI is still pretty vague, right? That’s the evidence, the proof many are seeking before they make any investment, before they’d consider letting go of what they know and trust, how they’ve always done things. ROI is still the foundation – the belief that their house will still be standing after this storm passes. If there’s proof it won’t, then they’ll do something about it.
To some, social media is still a distraction, people sharing random, useless updates about nothing. There’s no reason to be there – unless, of course, there is. The correlations between social and ROI are becoming clearer and studies showing definitive links between social media efforts and the bottom line and increasing. But there’s no compelling truth as yet, no definitive requirement. And that’s where we stand at present, in the uncomfortable eye of the storm, with many holding tight to what they know and love. But the thing is, we’re not going back. While you may be of the view that social media is not a requirement, that the ROI just isn’t there, it’s not going to go away. Turning your back on the storm and heading inside to read a book might distract you from what’s happening right now, but denying its happening at all is counterproductive. What’s more, preparing now can’t be a bad thing, right? Learning the landscape and understanding what might be on its way, that can’t hurt.
Proactive vs. Too Late
Jay Baer said it best, in a quote I fall back on so often that people who know me would be already saying: ‘yeah yeah, we know’
The goal is not to be good at social media. The goal is to be good at business because of social media.
This sums up perfectly why businesses should be excited about the possibilities of social media, not switched off to it or bristling at its perceived complexity. 90% of the world’s data has been generated in the last two years, largely because of social media. That’s all the data, everything we have – we’re able to utilise 90% more information, from consumer sentiment to purchase behaviours to buyer personas, we have access to 90% more of this data than we’ve ever had at any time in history. Because of social media. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a Twitter ace or a Facebook pro, what matters is the information, the sources you can tap into and utilise, the places consumer conversations are happening. There’s no way to fully understand the ways in which we can utilise all this information, because we’ve never had access to this amount of data before. The only limitation is your mind, your approach to how you track, find and analyse the info. The goal isn’t to start your own hashtag or to latch onto the latest trending topic, it’s to be better at business by utilising all the new opportunities available to you.
Now, you might try it out, you might get onto a few social platforms and look around and find there’s nothing really relevant for you or your business. You might, but it’s increasingly unlikely that you’ll see no potential at all. And it’s worth knowing, right? It’s worth getting an understanding of exactly what’s out there so you know if that storm’s gonna’ hit.
Will you be proactive or too late? Because really, that’s the bottom line. We’re in the eye of the storm right now, and you might be just fine in the calm, the normality of the plain. But the change is happening. You can see it, feel it on the distance. Maybe you don’t go all in, divert all your marketing dollars to social channels and hope for the best. Building a full storm shelter is expensive, but reading up on it costs you nothing, nothing but time. Of course, that too is an expensive commodity in this day and age, but it might turn out to be the best investment that you ever make.
Image credit: Dave Toussaint, used under Creative Commons