In our last article, we discussed how social networks are replacing e-mail – especially with Generations Y and Z. Yet, many companies fail to grasp this new concept. They build out elaborate YouTube or Flickr pages, placing callouts and click actions that send the user outside of the social network, often to their company Web site or a lead capture page. These companies still believe they need to get these users into their prospecting databases in order to market to them. They are doing a disservice to their loyal fan base and in turn a disservice to themselves.
It's analogous to meeting a pretty girl within a bar and asking if she would like a drink. When she responds "yes" rather than ordering a drink from the bartender, you grab her and throw her into your car and drive her back to your place, since after all, you have beer in your fridge. This is not a sound courtship strategy, nor are analogous social media strategies employed by companies "courting" potential customers.
But, let's digress back to our dating scenario on social media. Social networks are fantastic for meeting new people and dating. If a girl meets a guy out on the town and they exchange names and connect within a social media network – it's a gold mine of data.
The more friends you have in common within the shared social network, the more secure you feel knowing the other person isn't some form of lunatic. Photos are helpful, especially if the night before was a bit wild and a little fuzzy. If you are listed in a network for "Star Trek Fanatics" or "Dracula Oprah" that will be even more telling. What you do, who you work for, where you live and have lived, provides additional insight into your persona.
If all checks out, that first date is more like a fourth date. You aren't asking question like "Where did you go to college," or "what are your hobbies." You'll still probably ask these questions to make it appear that you aren't a stalker, or to be polite by showing interest, but it is a completely different dynamic than the world baby boomers and even Generation X grew up in.
Social networks make it easier to stay in touch with someone new before you are at the stage of "let's grab a drink." It's easier than face-to-face as you avoid awkward silences, deciding who is going to pay for the check, and it's potentially less embarrassing (poppy seed between teeth anyone?).
Already gaining popularity on the dating side of things is leveraging the mobility of having alerts set up and sent to your phone so that you are connected to people that are currently in your area. Going one step further, some tools recommend locations based on your mood.
Instead of listing the top ten restaurants in the SoHo area of New York, for example, it would list the top 10 romantic restaurants, or the top 20 hip-laid back restaurants in the area. Hence, if it was your first date, you wouldn't find yourself in the awkward position of being at a place with white-glove service and dining by candlelight.
The benefits of this type of relationship-building hold true from business to consumer as well. Businesses capture a lot more information via social media about their consumers than they've ever had before. Good businesses realize though, that the relationship still needs to be cultivated (see grabbing the girl from the bar analogy).
Good businesses realize that it's not all about the instant win of getting someone into a database. Rather it is cultivated that relationship via social media, and if done correctly you will have a relationship that lasts a lifetime.