To say that we live in a “web world” these days would be an understatement. However I don’t believe that the web world has to differ all that much from the real world if we choose to make it so. Recently during my workshop for CreativeLIVE I made the comment that it was time for business to become human again. What I meant by this is that it’s time for businesses (and personalities) to stop treating the web merely as an outlet for shameless self-promotion and start looking at it as a way to cultivate a community and build relationships with their customers/fans.
I try very hard to respond to each and every tweet, email, or message that I get on the web. Yes, this is a daunting task and most of the time it consumes me more than it should, but still I believe it’s important. I’m always shocked when people are surprised to get a response from me or that they’re so grateful that I took the time to email or tweet them back. I am human after all, so why wouldn’t I respond? Think about it. You’d be a little pissed off if you walked in to the office one day said hello to someone and they simply ignored you, right? Well, by not acknowledging messages or feedback that we get on the web, that’s exactly what we’re doing to people. I understand that there are some personalities and brands out there that have followings much larger than mine, and their excuse will inevitably be that they don’t have the time to respond to all of them… Well, bullshit.
As the proliferation of web based companies increases over the next few years, the idea of web based customer service and online communities will become increasingly important. Therefore we almost have a responsibility, as web geeks, to help move the business model forward in that space. I made a comparison recently to the 1940s and 1950s and how if we could turn web based businesses into businesses like that of the 40s and 50s that we’d be much better off. I stand firmly behind that statement. You see, back in “the day” people were so human and civil. You’d walk into a pharmacy or grocery and people would say hello and greet you with a smile. People knew your name and what you were going to order even before you ordered it. You didn’t frequent the same stores because they were the best or the cheapest, but because they gave you a more personal and enjoyable experience while you were there. That’s what we’re missing in today’s day and age.
I still consider myself a small fish in a very big pond, and quite frankly I’m ok with that. Being a small fish allows me to be more personal with those people who do follow me and participate in my community. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I’d rather have 100 followers that genuinely care about what I have to say or teach and that interact with me on a daily basis, than 1,000,000 followers who simply follow me blindly because of my name or affiliation to a company. I’ll continue on my “crazy, non-sustainable” path for as long as I can. I’ll continue to interact and ask questions and respond to them as well, because that’s what humans do. Without relationships our lives are basically meaningless. You’ll see that this will hold true both for people and businesses in the future. What you have to decide is whether or not you have the passion and patience to change your ways and start cultivating communities rather than crunching numbers!