Social Media has taken over the world. Quite a bold statement, I know; but consider how things have changed over the last couple of decades. Back in the nineties, you would look in the local newspaper to find a review of a good restaurant. Considered impartial, the ‘Food and Drink’ column was a great way of finding unbiased advice. Fast forward to the present day and ask yourself how often you take notice of an expert’s review of anything?
One Opinion or Ten Thousand?
Social media has empowered us to share opinions, reviews and thoughts. Take TripAdvisor as an example. The largest travel community in the world, with over 200 million monthly views. There are more than 100 million reviews of over 2.5 million different accommodations, restaurants and attractions. This post is not an advert for Trip Advisor; but rather to raise awareness on the power of social media. There has been a drastic paradigm shift; from Travel Agents and Authors being the voice of authority, to a crowd sourced opinion. We can search for the places we might like to visit and read hundreds of reviews until we find a few that mean something to us. While you might not care about the wide range of seafood that is offered on the menu, you may be interested to find out if the pool is cleaned every morning. My point is that among the hundreds of unique reviews, there is likely to be someone similar to yourself. Somebody who has the same expectations and standards. Instead of one ‘expert’ opinion, you can read dozens and make up your own.
We no longer have to accept sub-standard service. Upon visiting a new town, we no longer need to ask for recommendations, but instead we have instant access to what is hot and what is not! I can’t think of a single occasion in the last few years that I have booked a holiday, eaten out or even visited an attraction without first reading others’ opinions.
We Review EVERYTHING!
Social media doesn’t only affect the hospitality industry. People review just about anything these days; shops, businesses, products, movies, music etc. Anything where there is a choice involved, opinions also exist.
I recently decided to get myself a road bike and began the process of searching for an appropriate brand and model. How would you do this research? The traditional approach would be to drop into your local bike shop and get an ‘expert’ opinion. If you were really savvy you might even go to a couple of other shops for a second and third opinion. The problem with this model is that even asking the experts has flaws:
- Staff might be trying to sell a certain brand / model due to an incentive they have running
- Staff may not know about deals to be had elsewhere
- The experience and knowledge of one or two opinions are limited – regardless of their background
- The true experts won’t be working in a local bike shop
Local shops often offer their staff incentives to sell a certain brand. There might be a rebate or bonus commission in selling a certain line or brand. This concept is very real and one that I am all too familiar with having had experience working a part time job in an electronics shop.
Although the experts are of a certain standard, there is no way that they have tried and tested every brand of bike. The true experts are the professional cyclists or the major enthusiasts. Guess where you can get their opinions…. Yep you got it – ONLINE!
Businesses Must Face Reality
The above is not new and I am certainly not the first person to use social media in my purchasing decision making. Businesses have to face the reality that they have to adopt social media to stay competitive. I have seen a number of local shops around London go bankrupt and close down over the last couple of years, because they refused to change their ways. Local hardware shops that never had to use Facebook before, so didn’t bother setting up a business page, or independent takeaways who forgot to list their contact details on Google. Contrary to this, the small chinese takeaway near us is opening up a third branch in the Autumn. This is the same outlet that subscribed to online ordering and has a mobile friendly website with a menu. It really is the simple things that make a huge difference..
The behaviors highlighted in this post are only going to become more prevalent in time. All businesses and traders must open their eyes to the change in the world and realise that they have to go digital to stay alive. Bigger businesses also need to ensure that customer service is of the highest standard. With people giving feedback on Facebook, Twitter, Google, TopTable, etc. you need to ensure that you have a response team to answer any questions and resolve issues. Numerous third parties offer brand care services which can look after much of this for you.
Twitter has Been Hi-Jacked by an Intern
A nice example to round of this post is to look at what happened when the music / film giant HMV was recently in administration. One of their summer interns had setup a Twitter account (the directors / management had never thought to do so before) which amassed a huge number of followers. As the company called in the administrators, said intern started to send out some interesting tweets: