If you had any doubts about the impact social networking tools and social media have on the world as we know it, watch this Advertising Age video of Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz talk about the changes they’ve made in their approach to reaching skiers and snow enthusiasts. While this is a great example of responsive and proactive marketing, it reveals bigger trends about how social media technologies are changing the way people interact with information and how that impacts their behavior.
Five Things to Remember About Social Media
A picture is worth a thousand words but a video says it all. Video is a powerful communication tool. That seems obvious, of course. Humans process information from images far more efficiently than words alone. Video is an image on speed-it engages different sensory inputs and delivers an image stream. Social media allows for the distribution of videos to be immediate, targeted, personal, and accessible on-demand through YouTube, emails, mobile devices, and websites. Websites, in fact, may be the distribution dinosaurs of the bunch because people have to go to the site to find stuff. New tools are making it easier and easier to bring information to us, not matter where we are.
Honey we shrunk the time. The acceptable time lag for receiving information has radically shortened. Our expectations are now that we can (and should) get what we want to know right away. Decisions are made with real-time information. Who wants to book a ski vacation three months ahead and find out when you arrive that the snow’s no good? The implications of this for your customers is that if you can’t make good information easily and quickly available, they are going to be frustrated and it will reflect on their opinions about the competence and reliability of you, your product or your service. It doesn’t matter if you sell ski vacations or boob jobs.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The expectation to have real time information for our decision-making means we expect transparency, authenticity, and, heaven forbid, honesty. And we don’t just expect it about products we buy. We expect it from politicians, doctors, friends, and service institutions. If we don’t get it, we feel disrespected. There is no trust-and no business-where there is a perception of disrespect.
Together again for the first t ime. This new environment has to be part of your strategy whether it’s for marketing or media literacy. You can’t separate social media from marketing and management and successfully run a business any more than you can separate content production and user-choice from critical thinking about message analysis in media literacy training.
It’s the system, stupid. Social media is based on networks. If you hear the word “system,” and still think it’s a con or a n institution independent of you, you need to reorient. It is no longer possible to act in isolation. We are part of a system that all works together–for better or worse. Just like supply and demand, we are in this together. More importantly, systems have very different properties than unidirectional information flows. Messages travel across network hubs and nodes. This means that everytime information hits a hub, it automatically disseminates information to all its nodes. Imagine how germs spread in a room full of kindergartners and you’ll get the idea.
Rob Katz is a smart guy. By empowering his customers with current and accurate information about ski conditions, rates, and services, he is building a deeper, richer, and much more reciprocal relationship with them than he ever could have with ads in Condé Nast traveler. Using social media this way develops relationships based on trust and providing value rather than selling. Priceless.