In Part II of our discussion of the future of social media, I want to look at the medium from the point of view of the consumer. I am someone who wants to buy something, communicate with a company, receive support, or just scream and yell about someone with which I have a business relationship. How does social media help me? Does it make life easier for me? Will social media improve my experience over time?
Before I answer these questions, I need to drop some theory on you. Let’s call it the “Kevin Senne Newer Rules” for success in business, email marketing, social media, or any other kind of business venture you want to discuss. Successful companies first identify a product or a service that others want to use or buy. If you have a great product, you can have a crappy ad campaign, Web site, or packaging. Word-of-mouth will still most likely move a nice segment of your product. People have a way of telling others about things that they like. I like to call this kicking it old school social media. Think about the best restaurants in your city. Chances are a couple of these are just dives. The owner cares only about making the best burger, enchilada, or sushi roll around. They don’t market the place, and they don’t spend money on fancy napkins. These folks just cook great food. I read a review online, take my family, tell my friends, and so on and so on. The thing is always the thing. You might fool people in the short term with a fancy marketing campaign, but poor product or service will catch up. For the rest of this discussion, we’re going to pretend we all have that great product. Just imagine we invented the Snuggie, and that it isn’t just a robe turned around backwards.
The success of social media will be driven first by consumer choice. We live in an increasingly on demand world. Social media gives us the opportunity to demand more of our friends, family, business relationships, and just about anyone else. As a consumer, here is what I want: I want what I want, exactly when I want it. In fact, in a perfect world, I would like someone to tell me about exactly when I need something, just so I don’t forget.
The future of social media in a relationship such as the one described above will be different for each one of us. Let me give you some examples of social media working for me as a consumer, in different ways, but with the same effectiveness.
- Redbox – The $1.00 movie rental company. I follow redbox on Twitter, and sometimes they tweet a free rental code. There’s no way you can pass up a free movie, so I always find myself at a Redbox machine. Redbox also has great blog content, and they post fun movie news from new movies as well as ones they are currently renting. Interesting content keeps this company top-of-mind. I wrote a blog post about Redbox, they found it, and gave me a Twitter shout-out.
- thesixtyone.com – A music site I reviewed in this space recently. I like music, but I honestly haven’t listened to much music lately. This site changed that in a big way because of it’s social elements. The sixtyone is a place for new artists to feature their music. As a listener, I am prompted to build reputation by completing tasks and challenges, and recommending songs to others. The better they do, the more points I get. In 3 weeks, I have listened to more than 1,000 songs. I have purchased several albums from artists I would have never heard about. I love it, and have told as many people as I can about it. If you still don’t have an account, go sign-up now, and tell them kevinsenne sent you.
- dealnews – dealnews.com is a shopping/deals Web site that I have followed for years. I generally visit the site a couple of times per day. Since the site joined Facebook, I have become a fan. They run fun contests and post interesting articles about the consumer scene. I have spread the dealnews love to my friends, and will continue to do so in the future.
- Woot – I think woot.com is the one of the greatest examples of building on social buzz to build a business. I won’t go through the details; you can refer to my love note to Woot. There is no greater Internet buzz than the Bag O’ Crap or the Woot Off!
- Book Sites – I am a pretty avid reader. I devour as many books as possible — as long as they are non-fiction! I am just starting to explore some great book sites. My early favorite is a site called Shelfari. Shelfari allows me to tag books I have read, give reviews, comments, and see recommendations of other books I might like to read. I love being engaged in this way. Here’s my early stage profile.
- Dooce.com – My wife (and now me) are avid readers of Heather Armstrong’s irreverent “Mommy Blog.” The content is edgy and funny. I can identify with most of the content which makes it interesting to me. Heather has built a monster community by just being herself and sharing.
These are some examples of ways that communications work for me. Facebook users want content on Facebook. Twitter power users would like content via tweets. Can I use my phone to get directions, coupons, or tickets? The social components of sites may be just what I ordered. The most important thing to me is flexibility and visibility. If I like your products, the more access you give me, the more I will use and promote them to my friends. The things I use are the things that are convenient to me. If you want me to use your service, you’d better be where I am going.
The rules are all mine. And I plan on changing them tomorrow.