Active Brand Participation as the Driving Factor Behind Online Marketing
I will probably sound redundant when I say that in the Web 2.0 world, the rules of marketing have changed. No longer companies, organizations and institutions have a monopoly on brand-related information. No longer mass media is the single source of mass information. Today, everyone is a media outlet. Today, consumers are the primary and most trusted source of information about brands and products. Add to that highly fragmented audiences and increasingly shorter attention spans, and what you will get is a totally new marketing environment in which brands need to reinvent themselves in order to stay afloat and to grow.
In this new environment it is no longer enough to simply broadcast a message. To be heard – and listened to – brands need to become active participants of communities and conversations that take place online. With new territory, come new rules. And there are three big challenges that brands face online.
- Lack of control. I have already mentioned that, today, consumers are the main and most trusted source of information about brands and products/services. And it looks like it is not going to change. Instead of trying to take control over what’s being said about them – which is, needless to say, is impossible – brands should encourage the flow of favorable consumer-generated content through reviews, comments, photos, videos and more. Brands should be ready to get negative feedback as well and use this feedback to their advantage by responding in a timely and constructive fashion. In her article Demerling writes that consumer feedback “provides the retailer with invaluable information about what their consumers like or dislike about their products, as well as what improvements can be made to increase sales.”
- Considerable investment. No, I am not talking about money here. This was the easy way in the olden days of traditional media domination. Today, brands must invest something more valuable than cash. They need to invest their time and human resources to be constantly engaged in the conversations taking place on the social web. Marketers should stop treating social media like a second class citizen assigning responsibility for social media efforts to interns and least experienced staff members. Your social media marketing campaign should be led by an experienced professional who has a great understanding of your target audience as well as various social media tools.
- Human interaction. As Hobsbawm puts it, “There has only been one magic ingredient for truly compelling net interactions: people.” In other words, people don’t want to connect with brands, they want to connect with other people. Successful social media marketing campaigns build communities around brands. They also create brand advocates whether by appointing people from within companies or providing most dedicated customer/fans with the tools to ‘evangelize’ brands to the rest of the world.