We have been told that ‘the customer is king’ for some time, but only in recent years have we truly seen a shift in power. Social media is a key contributor to this revolution and has subsequently encouraged great changes to the business landscape. Finally, we have come to realise that if the customer is really King we have to pay close attention and listen to them before they scream “off with your head.”

Consumer influence

Using the fashion industry as an example, we can see the recent consumer demand for more personalised products has caused an increase in one-off boutique social retail outlets. Effectively, entrepreneurial social media users have answered this demand. Consumers now have the chance to venture away from the sometimes generic fashion brands and rebel against the status quo by purchasing clothes that better represent their personality. We can be sure the shift in power from major high street brands to low budget one-off social outlets will only increase once the Twitter ‘buy button’ is rolled out across the globe and becomes more actively used.

Social media users do not always actively use their influence to cause change; smart brands recognise their influence and act upon it themselves. Thanks to social media monitoring tools and social media influencer relationships, fashion brands are staying hot on the heels of consumer trends. Take the 90s fashion style that has recently exploded in the UK. It used to be that we had to rummage through vintage shops to stumble across outfits that would make the cast of Clueless jealous. Now we can pick up chokers or jelly shoes from most retailers. Early adapter Topshop wanted to stay close to the fashion blogging community and consequently invited them to fill their front row seats at Fashion Week. The influence of the elite brand board room in dictating the “must-have” this season is lessening (yes I said it), now social users are deciding more and more what will feature in the shop windows themselves.

Consumers have voices

You would think that we, as a society, have turned into one big Grumpy Cat when looking at the amount of complaints brands receive on social. But the fact of the matter is that social has changed the dynamics of communication. Instead of moaning to our friends about the cold latte on the way to work, we take to Twitter, knowing the power of word of mouth and how influential our message can be over that of a brand. We also know that with the help of a Social platform and the vast amount of users, the message will be amplified thousands of more times than it usually would, especially if the message resonates with the masses. Remember the time a guy was locked in a London Waterstones store? Hilariously, instead of phoning the police – his first reaction was to take to Twitter (which, as it turns out, was a wise move and resulted in the hashtag #WaterstonesTexan trending worldwide in hope of freeing him, which eventually happened).

The fact that the message shared, even by ‘little old me’ can be noticed by a virtual crowd gives a voice to the previously unable. This is just one of the reasons so many are turning to social to tell their stories and campaign for better customer service, rights, changes in law, company policies or improved products. And guess what? We’ve been so successful in doing achieving our goals, we’re not going to stop now!

Social Media is The Ultimate Tool

Traditional monologue marketing was anything but empowering as our audience had no choice but to take on the listener role without getting a word in edge-ways. But things have changed since the introduction of social media and we’re now seeing these roles reverse. Social media monitoring has many benefits for brands, but it also gives way to consumer empowering results. For example, Meltwater client, EU Claim, actively monitor tweets using social listening tools to track messages from unhappy delayed airline users and inform them about their compensation options. This is just one example of a company who uses social listening to provide solutions to customers without them even having to ask!

Social media has actively changed the way in which we market to consumers. Gone are the days of a passive audience, consumers now want interactive and engaging material, and that’s exactly what they’ve received.  This ultimately helped build stronger relationships with brands making us feel that we are more than just a face in a sea of people. Our interaction (or lack of) is what makes or breaks a brand and that certainly is empowering.