The Real-time Relationship Revolution

The global growth in social networks is attributed to the need to connect (courtesy of Social Hallucinations)

After thinking about what's truly different around the world with the increasingly widespread popularity of the social web, one word struck out especially loud and clear.

Real-time relationships.

People need people, and there are now more ways to converse and collaborate than ever before. We don't only have to hear their voice, but can view their photos, videos, and textual messages at the desktop, laptop or mobile phone.

This phenomenon of intense and immediate interaction means that meeting family and/or friends just once a week or fortnight isn't enough anymore. We want to "sense" their presence online when they log onto MSN, laugh or cry at their little quips on Facebook, be drawn into an online debate at their blogs, or just respond with a 140 character (or less) message on Twitter.

Real-time relationships fuel the widespread growth and dominance of social technologies. They are the currency of the 2010s where the continued uncertainty of global economics, man-made calamities and terrorism has torn countries asunder.

When people's faith in time-honoured institutions and structure-bound organisations are eroded from mistrust, whom do they turn to? Their friends, family members and aquaintances. Nobody's going to just take an advertisement or news story at face value anymore.

How does being constantly connected affect the way businesses change?

For a start, getting a second opinion is now faster than ever before. Moreover, your customers can seek views not just from one party but a whole host of others, and even chat with them about it. This means that pulling wool over your customer's eyes will be almost impossible.

The next thing is that people expect immediate responses. You cannot afford to go radio silent for days or weeks if you want to continue enjoying a customer's patrimony. If you can maintain an "always on" chatline, so much the better (although it drives your employee's work-life balance bonkers... topic for another day).

The digital grapevine will also become the place where most buying decisions are made. Smart businesses will know how to get themselves so well-loved that their customers will automatically share the news about the latest product or service voluntarily. Of course, the building of online communities are then an absolute must.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, customers value businesses who stand on the same side. The greater your degree of empathy with your customers, the better. In fact, you should speak from the perspective of your customers rather than your company, and be seen as a champion for customer needs, wants and desires.

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