Welcome to the conversation economy
Four years ago I went on a sailing trip around the Greek islands with my brother, a few friends, and my 15 year old nephew. Sheer bliss. The only pressure we felt came from my nephew anxious to reach shore and the next internet café. Facebook. Facebook? We were dumbfounded.
Four years later and facebook has more than 500 million users worldwide including my 82 year old mother. If you think that social media is a fad then think again.
Marketers brought up on a diet of mass media and mass retailing are grappling with the new media. Budgets are being diverted and everyone’s looking for the new holy grail – how to go “viral.” Yes it is true. Social media provide new opportunities to reach consumers, often with far greater efficiency than traditional media. But I think we’re all missing the point.
Social media is not about “media.” It’s about a fundamental seismic disruption in culture. And if business does not change when culture changes it is dead. The cultural change brought about by social media is far reaching and affects every aspect of how we do business. Today’s consumers think and act differently and not just when they are logged on to a computer.
Welcome to the conversation economy.
Welcome back to the future.
Ironically, today’s world resembles the world of the past. A world where relationships matter. A world where community opinion and word of mouth are the most trusted sources of information. A world based on conversation.
Your brand, or your corporate image, is nothing more than the set of impressions that exists in the minds of your customers. All things being equal, people like to do business with people they know and like. That’s called added value.
Now, we get to know someone through conversation. By exchanging points of view. By understanding and evaluating the personality and values of the other whilst they talk. Through conversation we establish relationships. It’s only human. And its always been like that. It’s how community is established. It’s the glue that holds communities together. The only difference is that today’s communities are huge, interlocked networks of people spread right across the globe.
Think about it. The average facebook user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. If you “like” something your friends “like” then it spreads way beyond your initial network. Fast. Same if you don’t “like” something …
Mass media is not dead. But mass media companies which do not understand the conversational economy will fade to oblivion. Because the age of mass broadcast, as we have known it, is challenged by cultural change. By the same token, mass advertising is not dead. But brands must understand the need to engage in conversation. Because it is through conversation that relationships are established. And relationships are everything in the conversation economy.