In this week’s edition of the digital literacy series we examine the power of social relationships – what makes them possible, why they’re powerful and important and why they matter to businesses. To get insight into this interesting topic, I turned to Harley Rivet (@HarleyRivet), President and CEO of Deep Dish Digital, an online and social media marketing company based in Saskatoon.
What makes social relationships possible?
According to Rivet, today’s digital climate is allowing conversations to take place on a global scale and in all shapes and forms – between individuals and between thousands of people all at once. What’s making this possible? He points to the widespread availability of Internet access and a new wave of simple communication tools. Tools like Facebook and Twitter have torn down barriers, allowing people of all ages and demographics to form online relationships and to have meaningful conversations about a wide range of topics and with people from all over the world.
What is the power of social relationships for businesses?
Rivet says that on a very fundamental level, online social relationships allow businesses to foster the old-school principles of business – trust, good customer service and genuine relationships. Building upon and investing in online relationships with customers is good for business – plain and simple.
“For those relationships that remain online, maintaining them can lead to information sharing or introductions to even more people of interest. From a business perspective, I believe social relationships help shorten the sales cycle and also breed trust. It’s common knowledge that people only do business with those they know, like and trust. So, forming social relationships is a great way to move through this process that might not have otherwise presented itself.”
But the power of social relationships doesn’t just live online. The time and energy that businesses invest in online conversations and relationships can be capitalized on offline – an end goal that social media, if used properly, makes very possible.
“I think online relationships are a great icebreaker and facilitator to moving things into offline relationships. Personally, I know it’s a lot easier to approach or start a conversation with someone in real life if I’ve already engaged with them online through social media.”
How can businesses harness this power?
Ultimately, Rivet says that businesses must be digitally literate, a term he defines as “having a level of comfort and regular frequency with using the Web and digital devices for the purpose of communication”. And while he notes that the level of required digital literacy varies from business to business, he says that no business can afford to ignore digital media. With people spending more time online than any other medium, company marketing and communications efforts should be following suit.
But, Rivet cautions that there is a right and wrong way to do this and being knowledgeable of the tools that a company’s target audience is using is key to being successful. A company must understand the online behaviours of their customers and then choose the appropriate online tools to engage them.
“Again, it’s about going through the process of getting customers to know, like and trust you. If you choose the wrong tools or channels and/or only talk about yourself, then your efforts may be fruitless.”
To summarize the importance of digital literacy for businesses, Rivet offers the following quote:
“There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and that everything will one day be on the Web.”