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This post originally appeared in the October issue of Shop SA. It addresses small to medium businesses that have yet to take the decision to “go social”.

15 years ago a growing hype was underway about “going online”. More and more we were told that our businesses had to have a website. Many businesses resisted the change. 

Why go online? My target market is not there. It’s a fad. I have a shop, I don’t need a website.  

Today you would not think of having a business without a website – in fact it is often the first thing we spend money on when starting a business.

Three years ago a new hype began – you have to “go social”. Similar resistance is being experienced right now about using social media for our businesses.  The hype can often feel like we are being beaten into submission.

But when “going social” is viewed as opportunity, resistance turns to forward motion. More than anything it is important to understand the shift in mindset that social media has brought to business that has made active involvement in social media a necessity.

1950 marked the start of the technological revolution. It was technology that drove the pace of planet forward. Technological advances forced the world to change markedly every 10 years. In 20 years we went from street cars to landing on the moon. Just 20 years after that we had computers in our homes and mobile phones enabling instant communication anywhere in the world.

With the arrival of the internet and shortly thereafter social platforms, we see that the world now changes markedly every three years.  It is now possible to build a global brand in just 36 months.

This is possible because of the social web.

People all over the world are able to instantly communicate, share and collaborate. Ownership of the media today is shifting to individuals. The social web is the media.

This is very different to the ownership through advertising model that existed until 12 years ago and because of this shift, business can no longer control communication or the message. Individuals are talking freely to each other the world over about brands, goods and services. We are sharing our experiences through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

With over 1.4 billion people active on social networks around the world we can no longer ignore the fact that if we want to find customers we will find them out on the social web.

And since it is technology that is pushing the pace of the world forward it makes sense for business to embrace this technology in order to not just survive, but thrive in a business world that is becoming faster and faster.

When you make the decision to go social the opportunities for your business become a lot clearer. You are able to build a community around your brand and communicate directly to your customers rather than communicating broadly and hoping your market is listening. Using these platforms you reduce the friction between your business and your customer, responding quickly to what they need and what they want, increases your competitive advantage.  It is dynamic and exciting.

Resistance to change is natural but not smart! Smart business today is customer centred by being available on the channels and platforms that your customers use. Be where they are and communicate to them where they want to receive your communication. Make it easy for them to find and interact with you at their convenience. Then you can and will win.