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How brick and mortar businesses will catch up with social media and survive

I know this is a bit off topic from government related topics, but I feel I really wanted to share my future prediction for brick and mortar business when it comes to social media. You might have a family member or friend who operates a small business offline and you might find this useful for them. Its hard to study and talk about social media and not be aware of the possibilities that exist around us. So saying that, here’s my take on how social media will take off in a big way for brick and mortar. Hope you find it an interesting read!

Brick and Mortar Social Media Strategy Future Prediction

Now that the social media explosion is well underway, with a Facebook movie soon to release. You might wonder what’s next? How will the social media explosion shock us next?

I mean it seems that companies are embracing social media method of engaging with customers and actually starting to listen to them. And customers themselves are learning to get onto say something like twitter and search for hashtags to find out if their mobile provider is down or any other product review that is trending. They do this because they want to know if they’re not alone or if there is some sort of announcement being made by companies that is causing a service or product failure.

Have we seen it all?

You might think you’ve possibly seen it all, twitter births and miscarriage, marriage proposals over social networks, following a homeless person thoughts and journey on twitter (follow @hardlynormal), somebody with Aids talking about the pain of going through everyday life… boy we have seen it all! But I think there is another explosion on the horizon.

Digital Communications becoming more open and social and PERSONAL

As the world of digital communication is getting more and more personal, open and social, people are getting braver with exposing their personal details through short messages on twitter, facebook, bebo and foursquare. Businesses have also begun getting braver with an open line of communication through digital channels that are instant and sometimes cut through internal processes to ensure the problem does not gain anymore mass social media coverage.

The next explosion

I predict that, as history has shown us… people are always trying to find the next new thing and pushing boundaries. And in the current economic climate, where smaller businesses operating offline are suffering more and more from online/e-commerce competition, I feel somewhere in the near future brick and mortar businesses are also going to get brave and become up close and personal.

What do I mean by that?

Well, as we saw websites grow, we began to see shops displaying their companies website address on their shop fronts and leaflets. Now with the explosion of social media, they have added facebook fan pages and twitter accounts.

Update response to @carlhaggerty on this topic – Is it new?


After publishing this post, @carlhaggerty asked me a very relevant question. Is it really new? For some organizations such as Sun Microsystems, where the CEO also blogs publicly, it most definitely isn’t and for councillors in the UK who are starting to tweet its not as well, and also the Leader of Barnet Council, who has been tweeting for some time… it is not new.

But is it part of a collective social media strategy, I don’t believe so. The collective social media strategy of an organization that symbolises the organization are dispersed and inconsistent. They are quickly becoming just like print technology where a lot of paper has been wasted due to inconsistent and dispersed campaigns by various entities within an organization.

As more social media accounts created earlier are being shut down due to new social media policies created by communications teams in organizations and new ones created to deliver a more consistent and corporate approach,  its also become less personal, engaging and social.

All communications are handled by marketing and communication department to manage and therefore its output is never really social or as engaging and relevant to the service involved. Because the people delivering its output doesn’t really deliver the service personally themselves. Therefore their level of engagement can be limited and filtered. They are an output media generator with possibly not much support from the leadership of an organization.

Coming from the top and starts from the top too!

Hopefully what I’m trying to put out here is social media strategy that is new will be one that comes from the top and starts from the top.

You might say, yeah this is already happening but as we know it, not everybody is doing is right because no one actually knows what sort of content to put up there that can engage customers. Therefore social media strategy nowadays involve getting in an expert/consultant or attending courses to determine how to deliver content. The truth is that’s all great for a social media strategy but it isn’t effective 100% of the time. In fact I’d go as far to say only 20% social media marketing strategy’s actually successfully engage with customers and justify its presence.

Therefore I’m talking about the “no fuss, no bells and whisltes approach”. Business just being honest about their business, no bullshit and cheap marketing tricks. No discounts or free iPads to lure people in. Just good honest truth of what they’re doing and when they’re doing it. Take for example what @WMPcsidogsmithy setup by West Midlands Police who is trained to find Blood and human remains. He tweets about his everyday job on twitter and possibly gets some questions about his work from followers now and again. I see this sort of thing happening in social business to, people in business are going to be much bolder and actually put a face to the logo, so to speak. And nothing says we mean business, other than having a leader of an organization or business owner taking control of the conversation.

Its not longer about push or pull marketing… is about pushing the limits!

Where I see this going is the more personalized approach becoming more prominent. One day someone out there is going to think, how do we push customer satisfaction further and get more feedback. How do we learn more about what our customers want and start having a more interactive conversation with our customers?

All these questions will start to pop up and for businesses who were doing well is the good economic climate but now are suffering and facing closure. They will come to a point of one might say desperation and will want to use every trick in the book in order to survive.

“Survival of the fittest” calls for getting up close and personal


I predict brick and mortar businesses will start to get ULTRA PERSONAL. I see not only will links to facebook pages and twitter being available for the company profile but also possibly twitter accounts and facebook pages for the owners and relevant staff.

The “Never Knowing Undersold Chef” ;)


For example, take a restaurant, I see chefs having a twitter account where customers can comment on their meal while at the restaurant for the chef to receive feedback on say a particular dish or meal. The customer might be given the twitter handle of the chef as their being served instead of having to fill in a feedback paper form, as some restaurants do now.

This could apply to all sorts of businesses that need to exist in the 3 dimensional world. Like hair salons where all the hairstylists have twitter accounts so people can ask on their availability or tips of keeping your hair in good condition and what’s the next suitable haircut.

Its all about leadership and accountability!

Who says that only big companies suffer from bad leadership? Smaller brick and mortar companies also suffer from this although not as much. Except instead of a leader we call them “the boss” or business owners.

It will be more about survival of the fittest, and that implies you need to be on top of your business because your cashflow is your lifeline. You need to ensure ROI’s are being met and profits are within reach.

Staff can be encouraged to be more accountable and not blame business processes for customer dissatisfaction. This will allow them to be a part of the businesses survival and have a hand in the fate of the business. They need to know and understand, if business is bad, its bad news for them too!

Its people that make a successful businesses not business process. Business processes run the business but the engine/fuel and mechanics that lie underneath that makes it possibly to run comes from people.

Though this might seem a bit simple and possibly far fetched, I see it happening. If it does, please let me know! I’d love to see how it works out! ;-)

Hope this was useful!

Liz xxx

About Liz Azyan

Liz is a CREATIVE digital professional dedicated to helping individuals, governments and businesses realize their digital goals. She offers digital consultancy services on her website LizAzyan.com Liz is also a Google Fellowship Recipient (individuals selected based on their work and initiative in the arenas of technology, politics and social entrepreneurship), an invited expert panel on the Guardian’s Public Leader Network and has spoken at many public events and conferences on the subject of digital engagement.

2 comments

  1. Hi Liz,

    Interesting post and thanks for updating, you didn’t have to you know ;0).

    I think my issue is that I am personally not convinced that Social Media Strategies are required at all, I think you lead to it in the sense that it needs to be embedded deep into the organisational fabric and culture.

    If this is the case then what is required isn’t a social media strategy but a dymanic business model which encourages, empowers and embeds socialisation of all processes into the business.

    This simply becomes the only strategy the business follows and doesn’t need any complimenting “topic” based strategy.

    The problem we have is we don’t have the right kind of business models to support this approach in government just yet.

    It isn’t impossible but it would be more effective to look at the business model then work on a social media strategy and fight your way to the top to seek influence and ownership.

    Maybe I’m wrong and have lost the plot a bit right now but I think what you say is right but don’t agree we need social media strategies to move us forward. I don’t believe that is sustainable or efficient. A social busiess model will survive any tech boom or revelation as it would ensure a joining up across all channels.

    I’m drafting a post on this topic so apologies for any negative views – it simply isn’t intended ;0)

    Keep up the excellent work

    Carl

    • Hi Carl,

      Thanks for your feedback. Hihi, no worries, I never saw it as negative comment at all. I just wanted to be sure that my message was clear. And to be honest, I am exactly with you on this. I feel we are exactly on the same page but maybe I need to take the word strategy and replace it with approach. I was trying to talk in a language or term that I thought would make it easier to understand. But your comment certainly helped me to understand that by using the term strategy, I have miscommunicated my own message. What do you think about the term social media approach? Or should we use something else? Would be interesting to see if we can come up with a vision together on this. :)

      Thanks a lot for your comment, I only see it as a positive feedback as it definitely points out very good point and will help to improve this post and vision in itself. And of course you haven’t lost the plot at all! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and respond with your blog post. I look forward to reading it. :D

      Liz

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