The connection paradox

Numerous studies over recent years show that despite being more connected than ever, more people feel lonelier. Many of these surveys focus on under 35-year olds, who despite having the highest use of social media, are the group typically shown as having the fewest number of people they can confide in.

While digital is a 24-hour operation, it appears that clicks, likes, tweets and posts do not compare to having physical friendships.

Social networking is a great new technology, but there seems to be a big difference between having an expansive social network and a real network. When it comes to having friends, quantity does not always equal quality. This is something the Late MP Joe Cox understood with she created the UK cross party loneliness commission, looking at all forms of loneliness.

Technology has prompted social changes that societies are only just starting to understand. Systems to support and help both individuals and society as a whole are only now emerging.

This same technology has had a profound impact on how businesses operate, pushing them to become ‘open all hours’ companies. Many organisations aspire to having a huge number of ‘friends’ likes and followers in the same way as individuals have in their social profiles.

In business, this adoption of technology has been driven by a number of factors including:

  1. The very high computing power in small devices like smartphones and tablets. This computing power has increased significantly, even compared even to five years ago. Moore’s Law suggests that processing power doubles every two years, while simultaneously dropping in cost. This means that today the smallest business can store and hold huge amounts of data and process it rapidly. Moore’s Law shows no signs of diminishing yet. This has prompted companies to create vast data centres and buy the processing power they need to manage seemingly endless amounts of data.
  2. Social networks have played a key part in giving businesses the raw material they need to fill their data centres, alongside mining and storing data on every transaction, cough sneeze and click their customers and prospects make. The rationale goes like this: if we have made the investment to build data storage, then why not fill it up?

Social media is of course a useful tool for marketers

But, like rather like our personal relationships where the number of online ‘friends’ does not match the number of actual friends, businesses can struggle to find their real, long term and profitable customers through the clutter and noise of all the data.

This can be dangerous as it is possible to lose sight of who the real customers really are in the attempt to increase social engagement. Success is often measured by the volume of people who have clicked a button, but not necessarily those who have actually bought anything.

This can be further compounded by decisions being made only on ‘gut feel’ rather than using real insights at hand. Yes, Marketing is both art and science, and gut feel can and does play an important part. Twenty years ago, Steve Jobs accurately predicted that a book tablet would one day overtake the desktop, despite lots of forecasts and reports suggesting the opposite.

Data should play an important part in decision making, and should reflect what profitable customers look like. But it is not the be-all-end-all of decision making.

Customer data can often be overshadowed by customer metrics. I.e. what customers do rather than who customers are.

Understanding who your customers are is important. Understanding who your profitable customers are is even more important. Knowing who your top spending customers are, loving them and striving to find more like them should be a top priority.

Your business will benefit if everyone in the marketing department, indeed across the whole business, clearly understands these customers.

So, don’t be lonely – get to know your customers better.

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