Social media is not a new phenomenon, a lot of people had their first Myspace profile over 10 years ago and their first Facebook profile soon after that. The new phenomenon is that the people who grew up with social media are now entering managerial positions and have real purchasing power that is having a dramatic impact on the way people do business both in Cayman and around the world.

The number of ways this has changed business impact are numerous; many businesses now sell through social media channels, social media pages are often the leading address in advertising, the influence of younger members of an organisation has greatly increased due to their understanding of the technology and there’s much else. However, the greatest impact it has had is on communication.

Consumers now have a direct communications channel to almost every business. It allows users to complain or compliment a business in an immediate and very public forum and the onus is on the business to respond very quickly. Businesses which cross borders are expected to be responsive 24/7 and the personal nature of social media rewards responses that are genuine and useful while punishing the traditional canned/corporate responses that many businesses have relied on as standard for decades (not to mention the flogging companies receive for arguing with any complaint or making insensitive comments – see Nestle, Applebee’s, Kenneth Cole et al. case studies!)

Along with the pitfalls, this change in communication has huge potential for businesses. Public complaints present an excellent opportunity for businesses to correct and satisfy in an equally public fashion, new products and services can be communicated instantly and sold through the channel, there are much greater insights into your target market’s behaviour and tastes and it provides an exceptionally cost effective advertising channel.

Social media is not a silver bullet, but everyone is (or should be!) now realising that businesses ignore it at their peril.