Before social media was such a large part of our culture, options to deliver messages to brands with a compliment, complaint, or feedback about a product or service were limited to snail mail and telephone calls. These methods didn’t always result in a direct or quick answer, and, in all likelihood, fell upon deaf ears since brands really weren’t held accountable by any external forces, like, say, the internet.

Today, thanks to the power and transparency of social media, smart brands are realizing that consumers are now the ones who dictate the products and services they offer – not the other way around. So, in order to be successful in business in the modern era, brands must give their customers what they demand. And brands better start listening… This is what we call the Consumer Paradigm Shift.

Plain and simple, brands need to listen to what their customers are saying. This used to occur in a focus group which took months to set-up, conduct and evaluate but now happens each day, in real time, millions of times a day on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

Modern day marketers need to be constantly monitoring and “listening” to these social media websites so they can gauge what your customers are talking about. Then they need to put measures in place and analyze to draw meaningful and actionable conclusions to ultimately respond to their customers with an improved or new product or service.

Let’s be honest, there are two types of consumer feedback – positive and negative. An example of how brands have recently responded to positive consumer demands is how Mattel®, the maker of Barbie™, recently launched a Bald Barbie™ after a Facebook page was created demanding it, which caught social media fire and the attention of Mattel®. The consumers demanded it on social media and Mattel® responded by creating a new doll.

It’s not always positive feedback that will cause a brand to change their ways. Take for example, Subway® and how they changed their bread recipe after it was discovered that a common ingredient in their bread was also used in the manufacturing of yoga mats. The consumers demanded it on social media and Subway® responded by changing their bread recipe.

Many brands have created social media monitoring groups within their marketing departments to keep a pulse on what is happening with their customers. Here, real time coordination of responses take place that allow marketers to respond in real time to increase the engagement of their customers such as NASCAR’s Fan and Media Engagement Center as well as to minimize the impact on crisis situations such as how Nestlé responded to Greenpeace’s attack on them for using unsustainable Palm Oil.

The Consumer Paradigm Shift is not going away as long as consumers have a public outlet to hold brands accountable. Now is the time for marketers to start listening and create actionable steps towards giving their customers what they want. That way, not only will consumers get what they want, brands will too by gaining their customers loyalty.