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The approach of business to social media is ever evolving as are views about strategy, planning, content.

This is something I’m always thinking about.  On the 29th of February I attended a presentation by Damian Cook from E-Tourism Frontiers.  He spent a bit of time talking about how social media has changed the way travelers behave and it is quite fascinating. Services such as TripIt (a smartphone app), Trip Advisor (web service) along with Facebook and Twitter make the travel experience very different today.  Gone are the days (yay!) of inviting your friends over to your house for a showing of the holiday snaps and movies.  Now your friends travel with you, sharing each step through your interactions on Facebook and other social mediums. You contribute to the growing wealth of crowdsourced knowledge with each hotel and restaurant recommendation, easing the journey for those who come after you.

And this is just a tiny snapshot of the change.

The thought that kept bouncing around in my head was “changed behaviour”.  The thought finally resolved at 11.30pm last night as I tried to get to sleep.  And it is one of those really obvious realisations that we probably all know but it was now articulated for me.  The behaviour of customers in every industry is changing because of social media. The common thread is “social” in that customers are increasingly sharing their interactions with brands from retail consumers to employees to job hunters to media consumers.

This is the reason every business must have a plan for going social.  The very foundation of your business – how your customer interacts with the world and makes his or her decisions is different. Do you understand how social media has changed your customer? If you don’t you’ve already missed opportunities, you’ve already lost customers to more forward thinking competitors and your business is subsiding, possibly imperceptibly, possibly quickly.

When you take away all the hype and hyperbole, the staggering statistics, the viral campaigns, this is what it comes down to for business: Your customers behave differently. Do you know how they have changed? Do you know how to leverage that change? Are you doing it?

This will be the basis of your social planning.   When you understand the nature of the community you wish to serve you can move forward with a plan to win.

I’d love to hear your comments on changing customer behaviour.  Let me know in the comments.