The Internet has changed our lives forever. It allows us to communicate in ways unimaginable only a few years ago. It lets us contribute our voices to conversations taking place around the world. It also makes it possible to discover an endless supply of information with just a few clicks. And while making it easy for us to connect globally, it also empowers us to build close, meaningful relationships. Through text, audio, and video, we as individuals are able to participate in conversations that inform us, captivate us, and assist us at the moment we need it. And we turn to the Internet in every facet of our lives – for entertainment, encouragement, knowledge, and dvice. Advice on what to buy, where to buy it, and of course who to buy it from. A growing number of people are leveraging the Internet in every aspect of their lives, including whom they wish to do business with. And while cost is a major factor in this decision, Web‐savvy customers are looking for more from vendors. These social customers want companies to listen to their cares and concerns, to use the social media channels they use, and to actively participate with them in transparent conversations. In fact, according to findings of the recent 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, 60% of Americans use social media, with 59% of social media users interacting with companies on social media sites. Additionally, the study finds that 93% of social media users feel companies should have a social media presence – with 56% saying they feel a stronger connection with companies that do. This seems to reinforce findings from a recent study conducted by Coleman Parkes Research that found 84% of companies headquartered in North America feel they need to find new ways to communicate with customers; with 0% feeling social media will add real value to customer interactions.
With high speed Internet access available in and out of the office, easy to use software‐as‐a‐service applications, and multimedia‐enabled mobile devices flooding the market, technology is beginning to catch up to the needs of the social customer. Content creation and distribution will become easier, sparking more opportunities to engage in conversations going on throughout the Internet. This is important to keep in mind, as there are already 22.6 million U.S. bloggers and 94.1 million U.S. blog readers – according to Technorati’s 2008 State of the Blogosphere report. Subsequently, as the technology makes it easier for us to blog, create videos, and share all kinds of content, the number of social customers on the Internet will grow tremendously. More importantly, the power and influence they have will grow as well.
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