We live in an age of the masses. Social media sites such as facebook, twitter, and linkedin have created a world where one of our biggest concerns is how many likes, friends, followers and connections we can make…..it is only about the number. It wasn’t always like this, we don’t have to look back too far to remember the days of the local corner store, dry cleaner or butcher. These businesses succeeded under the premise of creating relationships with their INDIVIDUAL clients. Later with the adoption of radio, television and then internet, we witnessed the rise of mass marketing. On average, people in North America are exposed to 1500 to 2500 marketing messages a day through email, billboards, contextual ads, television, radio and countless other forms of advertising. But do these methods work anymore?

I (and many others smarter than me) vote no! We have become more efficient and vocal about ignoring these messages from companies and businesses. According to the 2009 Economic Report of the President, 72 percent of Americans signed up for the National Do Not Call List. So how do you cut through all of the clutter and break through to your clients?

You cannot underestimate the value of a single person. There is a story of a young politician who was speaking at his first event. Very eager to make a great first impression, he was disappointed to find only one person arrive at his speaking engagement. Finally he said to the one man sitting in the audience, “Look, I’m just a young politician starting out. Do you think I ought to deliver this speech or dismiss the meeting?” The man thought for a moment and replied, “Sir, I’m just a cowhand. All I know is cows. Of course, I do know that if I took a load of hay down to pasture and only one cow came up, I’d feed it!”

Start changing your online marketing strategy by creating dialogue with your individual customers. Someone shared with me one time that if it happens offline then it happens online. You wouldn’t ignore individual people if they addressed you on the street or in the store so why do so many people do it online? Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter (to name a few) have created a world where we can ignore the individual and speak only to the group. If you want to stand out in today’s market create a conversation with your individual customers and potential customers.

When Don Pepper and Martha Rogers wrote The One to One Future in 1999 they were way ahead of their time. They wrote, “The old paradigm, a system of mass production, mass media and mass marketing, is being replaced by a totally new paradigm, a one-to-one economic system. Instead of market share, the goal of most business competition will be share of customer – one customer at a time.”

Here are five tips to help you create dialogue online and move away from the mass approach to marketing:

1. If you cannot add value don’t participate.
2. Connection before commerce. Remember it is a conversation! (Online is the same as offline)
3. Be relevant, interesting and remarkable. There is no point in sharing information no one cares about or that doesn’t separate you from anyone else.
4. Be authentic and approachable. It doesn’t work offline to be someone you aren’t so why bother trying it online?
5. Commit. There is nothing worse than a static online presence.