Sharing is a phenomenon that is transforming the business world. As with social media, it will take time for many businesses to get comfortable with the concept – if they ever do. Nevertheless, whether you embrace this idea or not, you need to recognize that it will increasingly affect the behavior of your markets.
Just as social media is conditioning us to think of customers and markets as communities, it is becoming more apparent that we should not overlook this emerging trend that is further defining them as sharing communities.
Imagine the Possibilities
Consider the possibilities for your business if you had perfect marketing information – that you understood exactly what every single customer wanted, and they each other. Then you could better focus your efforts – to acquire more customers like them, to better niche your company, or to develop more innovative product and service offerings.
This is possible when information is freely shared. Many years ago I considered buying a McDonald's franchise. During my interview with their representative, I learned that whenever a franchisee develops an innovative product, they are required to share it with all of the other franchisees – some of whom may be their competing franchises!
McDonald's recognized that the best way to advance the mission of the company was to encourage free sharing. Indeed, they were ahead of their time.
Value Resides in Communities
The value that resides in your communities is much greater than you realize. You have customers from all walks of life that can teach you how to make your business better in some way, however small it may be.
And thanks to the power of social media technology, these little pieces of shared wisdom can be aggregated, accumulated, and applied for the benefit of that community – benefitting both the community and your small business!
The key is reaching out, learning what you don't know (as well as clarifying what you think you know), and then curating it to create even more improvements – better, faster, and cheaper.
Redefine How You Work
I was fascinated to learn how Facebook used their technology to translate hundreds of languages in a very short period of time. How did they accomplish this? They let the communities do the work – who gladly participated because they too would benefit from the results!
Facebook simply presented the community with a list of words to be translated, which could not have been more than a few thousand at the most. Anyone using the system could tackle those words, with the majority determining the best translations.
This took a few weeks with the first language, which was Spanish. As they refined the process, it took just two days to tackle even more challenging languages with numerous dialects. All of this saved Facebook a great deal of time and money.
What is most interesting to is these user-generated results were clearly superior as a result of the crowdsourcing effort.
I had personal experience with this type of customer involvement when I owned and operated my landscape architecture and construction business. We too put our customers to work by intimately involving them in the creation of their own design.
Once again, they enthusiastically participated because they were the primary beneficiaries. As a company, we dramatically increased the satisfaction of our customers. How could they not be pleased with what they helped to create?
Sharing Clarifies and Validates
As you share with your community, they will provide feedback and resources that you may not be aware of that will further refine your knowledgebase. Some companies may worry that too much sharing is risky – potentially putting market information into the hands of competitors.
I disagree. There is nearly universal access to information today if you know how to tap into this social Web. Yet, what gives that information value is what is done with it. That requires organization, curation, and then taking action. And then doing it all over again to make it even better.
Social Media ROI
As a social media speaker, consultant, and coach, I am often asked to show my prospects and clients how they can profit. In addition to increasing their Web visibility, reputation, and referrals, this too is a highly valuable means for obtaining a return on your social media investment.
This is the idea behind business sharing. When you help your community, they are engaged with you and your company. The more you share, they more they share in return, and thus, the engagement is encouraged.
That sure seems like a pretty good reason to give this a shot, especially if you are interested in a sustainable return on your investment – one that continues to improve, and grow over time.
What do you think? How can sharing benefit your business community?
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Until tomorrow, Jeff
Photo Credit: JacquiT