My father is a forester. At one time, his chief role in his company was to evaluate a stand of timber and negotiate with the landowner for the rights to that timber. Those kinds of deals weren’t made by men in suits in conference rooms or over the phone. They were made by men in dusty boots on the front porch over a cup of coffee. Contracts were agreed upon with a handshake before pen was ever put to paper. There was a protocol for making those deals and, if you rushed it, you lost it.
The landowner might not have all the latest facts, figures and price indexes for whatever hardwood he was trying to sell, but he wanted a fair price for his resource. To be sure that he was getting the best price and was being treated fairly, he had to know who he was dealing with. He might have known a guy who knew a guy, but, even then, he wanted to make the judgement for himself. And he made that judgement sitting on the front porch drinking a cup of coffee with the potential buyer.
I don’t have land with timber on it. To be honest, I don’t have a front porch to speak of, either. But when I’m spending money, I want to know who I’m spending it with and I don’t think I’m unusual. As a front porch for consumers and vendors alike, Social Media helps me do that. I tell people regularly to check our commercial site to see what we do; but, to see who we are, check this blog, our Facebook pages and our Tweets. You’ll see the issues that are important to us – aviation industry issues and advances, marketing and human resources articles, environmental issues and hockey. (Hey, I’m a fan and since I post many of our updates, well…..)
We can’t shake hands and or make eye contact over a blog, a tweet or a status update; however, with continued exchanges, we can get to know one another. As a customer, we can watch how vendors treat other customers. We can see the rate and the quality of interaction. As a vendor, we can see customers’ interests and viability. If either party is presenting counterfeit social currency, they won’t be able to hide it for long.
Sure, we can teleconference, video conference, read brochures and websites; however, those things tell us only what their authors want us to know. By reviewing a vendor or even a customer’s social currency, we can see how closely their actions match their words. We may not be literally looking each other in the eye, but by exploring a person or company’s social presence, we will find evidence of the each other’s ethics, activity level, responsiveness and global awareness. Social media gives us all the opportunity to either credit or discredit a company’s claims based on information we find in the company’s own social media offerings and on reviews written by their customers.
The Web of today and the Deep Web right around the corner offer fewer skeleton-hiding closets. The wide open platform gives consumers and vendors the opportunity to see each other as they are and as they’d like to be seen. We still may know a guy who knows a guy. Social Media gives us the chance to look each other in the virtual eye before we make the deal - even without dusty boots or cups of coffee.
The Relationship Economy