Social Media where the hunted can become the hunter

It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Imagine people flock to Web 2.0 locations where they blog. They upload/download audios/videos of specific interest to them. They congregate at business/special interest web sites to gain information and be entertained. They twitter. They gather daily/nightly in online communities to exchange information, news and just hang out.

They leave a digital fingerprint of who they are, who/what they like/don’t like, what they do/don’t do, where they go/don’t go and when they do all this stuff.

As Jason Bourne noted, “It’s easy. She’s standing right next to you.”

Once you’re on the web nothing is private for them…or you.

The profile can be so finite you can pick any prospective customer out of the mob and hit him/her with your message with little or no collateral damage.

It’s no wonder companies of all shapes, sizes, product/service categories will drop an estimated $1.4 billion on social media advertising this year.

Social Spending

By 2012 the investment should double.

There are billions of reasons for the interest beyond being the most direct means of reaching most likely customers.

It’s also the most undiluted, most direct and most cost-effective means of learning about customers – business and consumer.

The challenge for marketing is really understanding what social media is, how it works/interacts, which avenue(s) do you use, how do you measure social media results…and what are the downsides.

Social media: provides an unfiltered view of consumer perceptions so firms can see what will impact the future of their business word-of-mouth is having a tremendous control over perception and acceptance user community sites and blogs provide valuable (if studied analytically rather than emotionally) user experience feedback can generate effective viral campaigns for products is an arena dominated (by a factor of five) by early adopters (revolutionaries) will become increasingly significant in influencing companies and products according to the revolutionaries provides a unique opportunity to connect with contemporaries and customers to gain feedback and learn from it.

Social media is all about people.

It’s where people share opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives with others.

The demand, the interest, the need is growing in leaps and bounds.

Chicken Littles from time to time forecast the death kneel of the Web, a victim of its own success.

After all Internet traffic will quadruple by 2010.

You may complain about the volume of email and spam you have to deal with every day but baby you ain’t seen nuthin yet!

ITV has gained a lot of traction in the past two years and is rapidly expanding. VoIP shows considerable promise. And as the MPAA and RIAA are quick to point out, peer to peer sharing is growing so fast they can’t hire enough lawyers to stop the flow.

As Abbott/Cox said in the Bourne Supremacy, “That sounds ominous. Let me check my schedule.”

A short time ago blogs were to be the fast, meaningful, effective, cheap way to reach customers.

Today the hot button is Tweets. The 140 character chats are the new marketing/sales/communications breed of choice.

The dynamics of business as usual have changed so dramatically – internally and externally – management has lost its traditional chain of command control of messengers and messages.

Blogs, Tweets, Wikis, business/social nets gives everyone in the organization the tools to work/play more efficiently, more effectively.

Work/leisure, colleague/competitor, customer/prospect people move in/out of the networks forcing us to rethink org charts and work/information flow.

It’s organic, its supermarketing, supercommunications in a realtime world.

The proponents of each avenue claims unbridled marketing success but precisely pinpointing value and ROI in traditional metrics is difficult, if not impossible because it is impossible to find the beginning and end points.

Landy (Joan Allen) explained it best when she said, “The objectives and targets always came from us. Who’s giving them to him now?”

As huge and as effective as email, posted communications/opinions and file transfers are their demand on the Internet and their use is miniscule in comparison to the bandwidth entertainment will consume in the years ahead.

For most individuals and businesses it is the online video opportunities that track the most interest and the most attention because the ability to attract and identify eyeballs is…HUGE!!!

Online viewing is changing one of the entertainment/marketing communities most traditional (and profitable) means of reaching the “market.”

Some – primarily companies in this segment and their VCs – are proud to say that online video viewing will quickly eliminate conventional TV as rapidly as they killed print media.

Traditionals Live

They love to deride traditional media – print and TV.

But these “ancient” forms of communications, news and entertainment are still important in building brand awareness. Firms that choose one over the other don’t understand or acknowledge the dynamics of traditional media and how it integrates with new media.

For example:

Media synergy is important. Three media were better than two, and two media were better than one.

The combination of TV and print provided more lift than TV plus online.

TV and magazines produced the greatest awareness and each contributed more impact than online.

Print the most effective in increasing purchase intent.

Including a URL address in ads significantly increased web visits.

Offline media perform well in driving web traffic and search, often better than online media.

Each medium influences online behavior differently and plays a distinctive role.

“Qualified” search offers quite different and informative results than “total” search results.

What management often overlooks is the fact that widgets and social media weren’t prepared for them to control their message to unsuspecting prospects.

Or as John Nevins explained, “Locked it down? No, no… this is… this is Italy – they don’t exactly ‘lock down’.”

Ads may get consumers to your web site to learn more about the product but their next stop in the purchasing process is to surf the web learning about people’s customer-service experience.

Straight Scoop

Use any search engine to find out about any product and thousands of online social media references appear …instantly!

People who purchase note that:

About 74 per cent choose companies/brands based on others’ customer-care experiences shared online.

About 72 per cent research companies’ customer care online prior to purchasing products and services at least sometimes.

About 84 per cent consider the quality of customer care at least sometimes in their decision to do business with a company.

About 84 per cent consider the quality of customer care in their decision to do business with a company at least sometimes.

About 81 per cent say blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care, but less than 33 per cent say they believe that businesses take customers’ opinions seriously.

Bite the Bullet

Firms like HP, Amazon, Dell have found that leveraging social media to address customer care issues is just good business. And Dell learned the lesson the hard way when they first tried to manage and control their messages/communications their way.

Just as Pamela Landy said, “If there’s something you’re not telling me I want it now before I send that girl out there, do you understand?”

Knowing from first-hand inputs is can save marketing people from a lot of sleepless nights … or worse.

The tough part is listening, responding (appropriately) and improving products and processes.

They may like your ads but they make their purchasing decisions based on peers.

According to BIGresearch, instant messages, blogs and other social media have a greater influence over PC and CE product purchases.

To paraphrase advertising luminary David Ogilvy, “Advertising lights the fire, public relations fans the flame and widgets/social media whip it into a fire storm!”

Ignoring the influences that the company can’t control is foolhardy. The key to survival is listen…respond…improve.

As Bourne said, “We don’t have a choice.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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