Last month we talked about social media, the nature of associated marketing opportunities, and how marketers can embrace this emerging channel to get a jump on the competition. Four mentality shifts can help you prepare your brands to foster meaningful consumer connections with social media.
1) Stop thinking “push”; start thinking “pull.”
Consumers assume more control of their media consumption every day. Marketers who view media and marketing as “pull” channels position themselves for success with social media. Widespread broadcasting of messages works less and less in any marketing channel today, and it won’t accomplish anything for marketers trying to tap social media. Marketers should create experiences that enable consumers to pull brands into their digital bubbles by making their brand assets available, allowing consumers to badge themselves with the brand by creating meaningful connections and giving them something they can use. Cosmetics brand Maybelline’s WhatIsPure.com, mentioned in my previous article, enables consumers to create their own content and share it with the world.
2) Don’t just target; connect.
Targeting is a tried-and-true marketing discipline. Presenting the right message to the right people at the right time in the right place is a continually evolving science. Connecting with consumers won’t replace targeted media altogether, but moving beyond targeting to connect with consumers is extremely important with social media. Social media relieve marketers of the burden of customizing and targeting media; consumers do the work for you. If you make the content available in the right way, consumers will build, nurture, and enhance brand communities and conversations. Opportunities to connect with smaller, highly targeted groups are numerous. And unlike certain types of targeting, connecting can be measured quite effectively. Marketers can track simple Website traffic, content linking, analytic measures such as time spent on various pages, e-mail opt-ins, and a host of other metrics to gauge a program’s success.
3) Move from reacting to understanding.
Consumer behavior changes constantly, but marketers must understand the difference between actual changes in consumer DNA and simple passing trends. The right research at the right time can clarify this and help you understand what customers really want and need. Immersive ethnography studies, behavioral tracking, online surveys, and other tools can explain how audiences participate in digital experiences. For example, one of our recent ethnographic studies focused on teen girls to identify opportunities to create a new media property. Every piece of evidence supported the idea that teen girls are social media natives, constantly yearning to do more online than simply consume media.
“I don’t use Websites. Everyone has AIM. Everyone has MySpace,” said one respondent. “That’s all we do!”
“I only go to [insert name of traditional Website] when I’m seriously bored…like, drooling-on-my-keyboard bored,” said another.
As effective as these studies often prove to be, marketers should stop analyzing digital behavior separately from offline behavior. U.S. consumers are full-fledged digital consumers, and digital media interactions are simply a core component of general consumer behavior. Marketers who understand consumers’ behavior can translate branding efforts proactively, avoid responding to every passing trend, measure results based on real consumer behavior, and boost their marketing ROI, often significantly.
4) Focus on the opportunity; manage the risk.
Social media require marketers to turn some control of their messages over to consumers, and this inevitably involves risk. The opportunities in most cases, however, far outweigh the risks. As social media continue to expand into other communication channels beyond the Web, marketers who got involved with social media early will be better positioned to reap more of the potential rewards. Let’s look at two of our client examples.
NYTimes.com got involved early, incorporating the “larger Web-based conversation” into its own site by including the “most blogged” articles. These stand alongside the popular “most e-mailed” feature. This brand, which has always maintained a distinct editorial sensibility, has looked past risk and opened its gates to the larger conversation taking place.
Carnival Cruise Lines also focused on the results, realizing that people do not absorb brand experiences in a vacuum and allowing consumers to plan trips collaboratively at CarnivalConnections.com. A May 8 “Forbes” story, “TheirSpace.com,” featured the site and explained how a consumer used the tool to plan a March 2007 group cruise that had already generated two dozen reservations. CarnivalConnections.com boasts 13,000 registered users, 2,000 of whom already plan trips with the site, and is expected to generate $1.6 million in revenue.
Dave Friedman is president of the central region for Seattle-based interactive services firm Avenue A | Razorfish and a monthly contributor to CHIEF MARKETER. Contact him at Dave.Friedman@avenuea-razorfish.com.