Once upon a time…
When business Sales departments evolved from companies sending out traveling salesmen, to using a business tool called Marketing, it used advertising to create inspiring imagery coupled with adjectives that would inspire the householder to buy consumer durables. It shifted sales from talking one to one with customers, to storytelling that would bait them. Ostensibly it began broadcast – or to ‘talk at’ – the public.
First World general public could choose to take note or completely disengage in the advertising space. That is until Direct Marketing emerged. Businesses then began to re-engage the customer one-on-one.
But they were still talking at the consumer, mailing out personalised advertising, until telemarketing kicked in. The knee jerk reaction to telemarketing was antipathy from the public. It’s not that it was wrong to connect directly with customers, they just really hated the intrusion of being approached unasked and were vexed by the relentless sales spiel.
In today’s market place, consumers are better educated to marketing ploys and hence more resistant to the advances of advertisers. Many say that they are not easily influenced, don’t read, listen to or watch ads and don’t worship at the altar of brands. Millenials have shown to be very anti traditional advertising, which as they mature, bodes poorly for mainstream advertising, digital marketing and DM alike.
Word Of Mouth. The next wave of marketing.
Gradually, the next wave of marketing is emerging in Australia; we’re a little slower than the USA in this. In fact North American early adopters are already showing signs of fatigue. But the Australian public have recently raced ahead, in terms of time spent engaging with the next wave. So the opportunity is here.
It’s a reversal of all that advertisers have been accustomed to. It’s no longer what brands broadcast. It’s in fact, all about what the public say about your brand, and they’re doing it online. This is being referred to as Social Media.
Essentially Social Media is a description of the multiple platforms that facilitate the online conversations that billions of people are having online. In order to work with this, the first thing a brand needs to do is to listen to the online conversations that involve their products or services. Appraise how your brand is perceived. Then see what’s happening around your competitors.
Evaluate your brand in the eyes of your target market. Look at what they suggest you need to change and improve on, register what it is they like about your brand. See who influences them online. See who they are and what they represent.
Why is this action vital? Because the current statistic is: 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations.
Eighty six percent of Australian’s online are looking to their fellow Internet users for opinions and information about products, services and brands, and Australians’ engagement with online word of mouth communication is going to increase in coming years as social media plays an increasingly important role in consumer decision making.”*Hitwise
Advertisers have often held that while you may be talking to the lowest common denominator, you shouldn’t underestimate consumers. When you begin to assess your online brand engagement, a picture of public perception will emerge, and it can often be brutal and confronting.
The next step is to allow your customers to engage in dialogue with you. Effective Social Media relies on two-way dialogue between customers and with the brand, and that doesn’t mean simply broadcasting offers or statements about the brand. It is answering comments and discussing topics with consumers.
The key to this is transparency and trust, requiring a brand champion with access to information that can help customers choose your brand and who can also address customer service issues. While it requires a specific voice and personality, it is not PR broadcast.
In simple terms your entry point into Social Media could be setting up a twitter stream and politely responding to any comments made about your brand. It could be establishing an authenticated correspondent to speak on behalf of the company in popular, relevant online forums, or it could be as simple as enabling comments, the ability to share links and ratings on your website’s pages, that are moderated, answered and monitored by a company representative.
This is only the first step, but is a vital stage if a brand is to engage social media properly, avoiding the pitfalls that less prudent marketers have fallen into.