The following post was originally written as a comment I recently submitted to a LinkedIn group, the Toronto Entrepreneur Alliance. I was responding to another member's request for social media success stories.
(You may have noticed that most companies still don't have a lot of success stories. I think that's because they haven't caught on to what social media is all about.)
So here's my comment:
My belief is that social media is not an add-on to your business. It's an add-back-on.
For centuries, all businesses had personal relationships with their customers. It was only in the 19th-century industrial era (with its breakthroughs in mass production, branding, transportation and distribution) that the producers of products and services became estranged from their immediate users and buyers.
Result: giant, faceless, untrusted corporations; mediocre or lousy products; and frustrated customers (because product information and good service are so hard to come by.)
With social media, companies can now once again communicate on a broad, ongoing basis with their customers. They can listen in as their users compare notes, and engage with customers who have questions and problems. They can learn from their customers' feedback, improve their products, and add new ones that people actually need. Best of all, they in stepping out from behind the curtain of anonymity, companies and brands show themselves to be human once again.
In business as in life, those who do the best job of communicating with their community, and creating greater shared value, will flourish. And those who cannot bear the light of day, and of honest, candid interaction, will slink back into the shadows where they belong.