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Buyer Beware — Seller Be Aware!

by David Brock on August 20th, 2010

I guess as a blogger, twitter user, and sometime pundit, it’s natural to get into a lot of conversations about the impact of Social Media, and the Internet for that matter, on buying and selling.  In the past several days, I’ve had a number of conversations with people all over the world.  “How do we leverage social media to sell?”  “What should we be doing with social media?”  “What is social selling?”I have to admit that I feel a little awkward in these discussions, I don’t by any means consider myself a social media expert—it seems, I’ve just learned how to spell www….

Social media, social selling, and the Internet are very powerful tools for buyers and sellers.  As with any tool, there are good and bad aspects.  As sellers, we can reach out to a far wider customer base, we can get our “message” to people that were difficult to find and reach in ways that are much faster and cheaper than before.  As buyers, we can be much better informed.  We can do a tremendous amount of research on the Internet, in discussion forums, through blogs, through a tweet here or there.  I recently bought my wife a new car.  I researched models on the Internet, researched pricing, researched dealers and was able to walk into a dealer armed with data to get the right car at the right deal.  We do this in the products we buy every day, our companies do that for the solutions they are purchasing, and suppliers they are considering.

I can’t imagine what we would do without all the information, data, and insight we can quickly get from the internet, social media, and through many of the tools that enable us go find information quickly and easily.  However, it creates a great challenge for buyers and sellers.

The explosion of garbage and bad information available seems to grow at a rate faster than anything else.  Sometimes we (as sellers and marketers) do it ourselves–the victims of our enthusiasm in communicating through this medium call that SPAM.  Sometimes the volume of messages, communications, and information is so much, it’s difficult to sort through the clutter and noise.  The reaction is to turn it off.

Buyers use social media to become informed—not necessarily well informed—just informed, or often misinformed.  Social media can create an illusion of validity.  After all, if it’s in a blog, it must be accurate!  If there’s a discussion about a certain product, company, or topic, it must be true–the words are right there on my screen, it’s the next best thing to being in the newspaper.  Someone has anointed themselves with the title “Expert,” or “Guru,” and they immediately become experts.  We must hang on every word they write.  The problem is so much of it is just wrong!  It’s bad data, harmful advice, or something taken way out of context or misapplied.

All of this makes us informed–not necesssarily well informed.

It brings new meaning to the concept, “Buyer Beware.”  Buyers have to sort through mountains of garbage, research and understand, validate to get “good insight.”  Just because it’s on the Internet, doesn’t mean it’s gospel.  Just because it’s written in a blog doesn’t mean it’s true (present company excepted 😉

But sometimes buyers are naive and accept things at face value.  Sometimes they don’t have the time to dig and research–afterall, isn’t social media and social selling supposed to make things easier and faster.  Sometimes buyers to their homework and reach incorrect conclusions.

All this creates a challenge for sellers, “Sellers Be Aware.”  I get sales professionals and executives telling me they don’t have time for social media.  You need to make time.  You need to be Aware!  It’s critical to understand what customers are saying—about their issues, trends and business.  It’s critical to understand what customers and others are saying about you and your competition.  Some of it is accurate, lots of it is dead wrong.  If you aren’t aware of what is happening on the Internet, of how your products, services and companies are being reviewed, you will walk into your customers disadvantaged.  They think they are informed, but they may be misinformed.  As sellers we need to know that and address that–with customers and through social media. 

Social media, social selling, and the internet are powerful, we can’t function without them.  But it creates challenges for buyers and sellers.  Buyer Beware, Seller Be Aware!

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  1. Hi Dave

    Ironically I bet the same thing happened when the printing press was invented. Thought leaders were elated and began propagating their ideas in ways they never thought possible. Meanwhile the masses were overwhelmed at all the choices suddenly available. In time two camps developed: Those who embraced the power of the media and those who hosted mass book burnings decrying the evil of the media as the devil’s handiwork.

    As you know, there’s not much magic in social media. It’s really very simple. It’s about conversations. Just like having neighbours with like interests to chat with over the backyard fence, except now the backyard is global. Just like before, two camps are developing; those who are throwing their hands up in dismay and those who are embracing the media; leveraging it’s usefulness to increase their reach and becoming more competitive.

    The choice is ours and I guess it all depends on our level of adaptability. We can roll with the changes and learn how to exploit social media to our advantage or we can play it safe; slunk back into the cave, cover our ears and wait for it to go away.

    Don F Perkins

    • What’s old is new again (only executed at the speed of light)! You make such a wonderful point, we’ve traveled these paths before, only with different technology. We need to apply the lessons from the past, we need to embrace the new capabilities. It won’t go away, we just have to decide whether we want to play or be obsolete.

      Thanks Don, it is always so great to read your comments! Regards, Dave

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