It is no secret that the entire industrialized world is becoming more and more “social” by means of the expansive use of electronic media for networking, communication, and social relationships. The impact of this is profoundly changing the world that we live in. It is now nearly impossible for individuals and businesses to fly below the radar and remain in the world of obscurity. In case you have been blissfully unaware of the ever-developing world of social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Branch Out, and an array of other such services contain easily accessible public posts about who we are, what we are doing and how well we are doing it, whether or not we are directly participating. Even businesses that do not engage in social media are subject to public scrutiny in vehicles like Angie’s List1, and with mobile apps such as Where2 and FourSquare3 that invite public comments and reviews.
The ease with which the world can research us (businesses and individuals alike) became strikingly clear to me after reading the best seller “The NOW Revolution – 7 Shifts To Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social.”4 In reading this book I encountered the existence of sophisticated “listening posts,” which are online tools for exposing what is being posted by or about individuals and companies across the internet. Before reading this book, I had no idea that most of these so-called “listening posts” existed.
Here is one example of the “listening” power of the Internet. Go to Addictomatic.com and type in “YOUR NAME” or “YOUR BUSINESS NAME” in the search box (with the quote marks and spaces). The search results will include a custom page with “the latest social buzz” about you or your business. In seconds, Addict-o-maticTM creates a dashboard with results found on a collection of social media and related online sources. At least a dozen of such information aggregators exist across the web.5
These are powerful tools for business intelligence, waiting at your disposal. You can easily find out the current buzz about your competition, your industry, your business category, and what is being said that can impact the reputation of your business or you personally. As a guy who remembers the book, “1984,” it really is true that there are few secrets; total privacy is a thing of the past. Just like the old song, “You Can run But you Can’t Hide,” if you or anyone is “talking” about you, your company, or your organization, it is almost certain that what is being said will be heard by anyone who knows how to listen.
What does this mean for you in regards to your business affairs? The NOW Revolution authors point out that not “listening” is like not answering the telephone when it rings. If the world is listening, you must be listening too. The listening world can destroy your business, or it can help push your business over the edge of success. You must get to know this world of social media, and learn how your company can uniquely use it to your advantage, lest you be swallowed up in a changing world. There was a day when a business or person could be only public on the internet to the degree that they wanted to be. That day is long past. With the invention of tools such as Twitter, blogs, and Addictomatic ™, all it takes is one customer to publicize their bad experience and in an instant the entire industry knows about it. Thus, you must be prepared to listen.
The new media forces businesses to be armed and ready to instantly reply to customer service issues. Companies need contingency plans and procedures that give individuals the authority to reply instantly, either to endorse or refute what is being said. The astute business person must be equipped to instantly respond to fraudulent or spurious claims and conjectures that can ruin long-standing reputations. Convening a committee to ponder how to respond or taking time to run it past legal authorities are luxuries one can no longer afford to have. You can plan before the situation jumps up in your face, by familiarizing yourself with how the “listening” world functions, purposefully putting positive information on the internet radar, and keeping tabs on what is being said; or you can pick up the pieces after the event is over and consider what to do differently next time. Everyone is listening. YOU must control what they’re listening to.
By the way, “The NOW Revolution” book was the focus of discussion at our Lighthouse Growth Resources Business Owner Groups and the Lighthouse Advisory Board meeting in June. We barely scratched the surface. We have decided to continue the discussions in August. I suspect that the use of social media for business will be a hot topic for a long time.
(1) Angie’s List is a fee-based service for consumers to research service providers (roofing, plumbing, handymen, HVAC, housecleaning, electrical, painting, remodeling, windows).
(2) “Where” is a free mobile phone app that enables users to locate the closest places to eat, drink, and play, and access info on gasoline prices, news, traffic, weather and coupons.
(3) “FourSquare” is a free mobile phone app that “friends” can use to show where they are located, to track the places they visit, to find places nearby (food, coffee, nightlife, shops, arts & entertainment), and to create a “To Do” list of places to visit or shop.
(4) “The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Fasterh, Smarter, and More Social” by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, published by John Wiley & Sons, © 2011. www.nowrevolutionbook.com
(5) For a partial list of online “Listening Posts,” go to http://nowrevolutionbook.com/tag13/.