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Creating Conversations Instead of Commercials

September 4, 2014

The digital age offers opportunities to build powerful interactive experiences around products and brands, but is its potential being leveraged for maximum effect?

When social media broke out of the obscurity of a nascent Internet back in 2000, few people recognized the value it would have for organizations to communicate to key audiences and stakeholders. Although the general consensus holds that social media got its start in the late ’90s, it wasn’t until 2004, when the now ubiquitous Facebook launched to challenge MySpace, that the social media landscape as we currently know it began to take shape.

Yes, that’s right. 2004. “New” media is now ten years old. Older, in fact, if you include early attempts like Friendster or Friends Reunited. Of course, “new” is a relative standard, and social media is a recent development compared to television, radio, and the venerable newspaper. Nevertheless, we’ve lived with “likes” and “followers” for a decade now, yet the role of social media in organizational communications structures is still deeply misunderstood. Too often, it is viewed as just another channel for promotion, not a means of directly engaging a relevant audience. Followers and fans are treated as a passive audience, when nothing could be further from the truth.

This is exactly why digital media must be treated as its own unique channel, one that embraces the ‘relations’ aspect of customer relations rather than the customer. Social media carries with it an interactive element that other promotional channels lack. A commercial is great for disseminating a message, but the medium itself is rife with implications of distance and organizational disconnect. A person doesn’t feel spoken to when they absorb (and promptly discard) a passive marketing message. This isn’t to say there’s no value in conventional marketing at all, but it’s the ability to forge new, meaningful connections that separates social media campaigns from traditional counterparts.

Digital media lets you build a relationship with your audience: Print, radio, and television advertisements are uninvolving for their audiences. By contrast, conversations offer the opportunity for participation and interaction, making the experience stand out in participants’ memories. This can in turn make them into better customers, as well as foster new relationships. However, if your entire philosophy is to sell, sell, sell through social media, you’ll send people running. People are already inundated with advertising, and audiences are becoming ever more suspicious of it.

This isn’t to say promotion can never happen; in fact, most people understand they’re inviting an element of salesmanship into their newsfeed when they “like” your page. But they’re not signing up for an endless sales pitch, and the organization that reduces news feeds to an endless cycle of adverts is going to find itself losing followers, and worse, damaging its credibility. That’s why you want to make sure your digital media content is about more than just pushing product. You want to let the relationship sell the product for you. Therein lies the value of creating a truly great digital experience for your truly great product; if you can make it memorable, it will stick in your customers’s minds and have them coming back for seconds and thirds.

Focus on specific audiences: Instead of trying to bring everyone into the fold, invite a select crowd instead. You won’t be able to create a campaign that appeals to everyone, and it’s impossible to have a conversation with every audience at a single time. Whether it’s donuts or asphalt or telecomm equipment, not everyone has a use for your product. Take a look at the fast food industry; Taco Bell’s strategically executed “Live Más” used Instagram to rocket them to social success with the millennials over the past year. Going after a specific audience means you can be precise and strategic with your communications. You can get the right information to the right people instead of wasting time and effort speaking to people who won’t care or listen.

The interactive element: Nothing in digital marketing would be possible without the incredible technology that is literally in the palm of our hands. The advent of internet-connected smart devices offers organizations unprecedented opportunity to engage their audiences. These incredible technologies are what make some of the most memorable campaigns of recent history possible. Whether it’s good samaritans raising money for ALS by dumping buckets of ice water over their heads, or legions of Coca-Cola fans sharing pictures of themselves with Coke bottles bearing their name, interactivity is becoming integral to marketing campaigns of all kinds.

If you need help managing your social media campaign, or want to build customized digital experiences for your customers, don’t hesitate to contact us.