There is little debate that social media has irrevocably shifted brand consumption and consumer expectations. This seismic shift has both benefited and challenged brands across the board. The pros include brand accountability (if you mess up, expect it to become a trending topic on twitter) and more transparency (if you lie to your consumers, the world will soon know). Cons include a new generation of consumers that expect immediate gratification (social media has set the expectation that brands will converse with their customers in real time), lack brand loyalty and give new meaning to the term Generation “D”…no not digital; I’m talking about Generation Discount.

The personable aspect of social media has transformed talking TO a computer (on the phone) into talking ON the computer. We seemed to have finally found the answer to “Press 1 for…” and evolved to “Hi @reallycoolbrand, I’m having a customer service issue, can you help?”. Answers are forthcoming far faster than when we were all forced to navigate a phone system maze to finally land in the right department.

For brands, the new reality includes a nation of entitled consumers. There’s the expectation that all brands should discount their product…and 20% is not enough – that is barely even considered a sale anymore thanks to the proliferation of daily deal sites like Groupon, Ideeli, RueLaLa, etc. Brands walk the tightrope between moving their product and giving it away. The reality of the discount shopper, however, is they are most apt to keep shopping whatever brand is offering the steepest discounts in a category of comparable brands. So how does a brand come out on top in this new landscape?

Flawless execution of the pieces you can control. Customer Service – stellar customer service once you get a new customer in the door does drive return business. Accessibility and Interaction – brands that dialog with consumers via social media can win them over for life. Build Loyalty – develop and deploy customer rewards that satisfy consumer appetites for discounts, but offer it only to your most loyal base.

Social media has not ruined consumer brands. There are challenges to be addressed, but the there are also opportunities to be capitalized on. If you can master the art of being a social, connected business it can help grow your business in new and exciting ways.

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