This time around I am going to focus on public opinion and communication. Letter writing has always played a huge role in the spread of public opinion, with an example of this being during the heydays of immigration. In A True Picture of Emmigration, by Rebecca Burlend, the author told how her husband listened for news of letters coming from America. Then he would go and hear what was said of conditions in the U.S.. Nor can the power of the coffee and chocolates houses be forgotten - as those gathering places were where politics and popular opinion were vehemently discussed.
Jumping ahead to today, and particularly to the oft-bemoaned fact that everyone has their nose in their smart phones and tablets. And while I will admit that I too bemoan this on occasion it also cannot be ignored. Or, it might be better to say, "It is risky to ignore."
The forums for public opinion have changed, and become lightening fast....
......Pictures of a restraurant dinner on Facebook are usually sent with a comment.....
......Bored people, waiting in line, having nothing better than to Tweet their status......
Basically opinions of businesses and services fly with the speed of thought.
And businesses can only ignore this at their risk.
If you don't "hear" what is being said then you cannot highlight the praise, or show solid customer service, if there was a problem. Nor can a business afford to focus on just one "window" into the thoughts of their customers, because their clients may use a Tweet one day, or a FB post the next. Or they may be on a tablet, and writing a longer review on Google Plus.
For me the last week the theme has been "communication." This hasn't been so much about my personal communication as about how it may be changing. Or not.
When it comes to social media the popular outcry is, "It's killing social skills - Everyone is on their text!" and "It will do away with real letter writing - it will kill how we write at all!" Yet, this week I have seen more business articles on the need for businesses to actually communicate with their customers. To actually interact, and be social.
And I have been avidly reading these articles in hopes of learning a means to get that idea across to clients.
And, of course, being a history buff, my mind also began making comparisons to older forms of communication.
The first, and most popular, comparison, and statement, is that there is always a outcry that new technology will kill the older. And while communication methods change - they never really kills the original.
So I decided to do a two part blog on letter writing and social media; part history and part business. The first part will concern itself with a communications overview. And Part 2 will be concerned with the power and spread of opinion.
I'd say that letter writing really hit its heyday as families and friends became separated by marriage and necessity, particularly as people immigrated off to more distant lands. The price of posting and of writing materials always was a factor, and so information was often crammed into as much white space as was possible. Even when telephones came along - the price of a call, particularly long distance calls, impacted how much time and information could be shared. And so back to the letter.
When email came along it allowed for communicating across far greater distances, for next to nothing, and in a shorter time.
Much more could actually be shared, and letter writing flourished again.
Now we are seeing the same with the social media, though not at the length. People now don't have to save up a bulk of information, and then condense it all into cliffnote versions in their lives. It can be communicated as they think of it, and responded to just as quickly.
Now back to business....
I know from having a father who was a salesman that business people are very social individuals. Often times business associates become lifelong friends, and conversations can go on for hours - if schedules allow. However, they are also trained in a business mind set. That says, "You have to get your sales point across quickly and efficiently." Mailings and advertisements are aimed at this. Even networking groups don't really allow social interaction; the members come in, present their product/service, and only if they have a minute at the end of the event can they grab a second to socialize.
So when business personnel are dealing with social media they are still in the same "get to the point, and advertise" mindset.
Getting your product and service out there is definitely the "why" of being on the internet, but the way of communicating needs to go back to the concept of knowing your customers. To do this, you have to think "conversation."
This allows customers, particularly new customers, get a feel for who you are, and how you interact. You become a little bit more "real" to them, and they will feel more comfortable doing business with you.
Cathy Mosley brings her 26 years of storytelling and writing experience to the realm of Social Media. To help small businesses.