In the old world, the one before the Internet and social media, we got our content when they gave it to us. It was akin to three square meals a day if you were lucky. Newspapers flopped onto driveways, radio stations paused at the hour to bring us news and the family (well the parents) sat down to watch the evening news. These content outlets created funnels through which we got our news, views and perspective. All that changed when the Internet arrived. We could now get what we wanted when we wanted. Well sort of. Google and Yahoo! served up huge amounts of previously inaccessible content in ways that changed the world forever. We quickly got used to being able to get news headlines and perspective at our time and place of choosing. But with this change in behavior came a change in expectations. Because we can now get news on a subject 24/7, we now want news on that subject 24/7. If there is no news to report then we are disappointed. We are, it seems, the spoilt kids when it comes to content. This creates a challenge for brands because you never want to disappoint your customers.
A quick study of top consumer brands show they re all struggling with this challenge. Whether they are conscious of the challenge is debatable but many are trying to engage more frequently with their customers and partners online to avoid going dark for a few hours. Think about that. A decade ago a brand could go dark for days, even weeks and nobody had a problem. Today we expect our brands to be talking to us, introducing us to their friends, entertaining us and of course keeping us informed every hour of the day. Big brands, it seems, are being pushed to behave more and more like media outlets. But constantly creating compelling content is only part of the solution. Brands need to learn more about how and when their customers want to engage. They need to plan the engagement cycle rather than the news cycle. For many this requires a wholesale rethink of how they structure communications and marketing so that they focus less on how to get the news out and more on how to drive engagement on a consistent basis. That word ‘consistent’ is critical. Brands that engage around a new campaign and then go dark are the ones that create the largest expectation gap with their customers. Avoiding going dark requires a rethink of the ‘big idea’ approach to marketing and instead a focus on what the guys at our Bourne agency have termed the ‘long idea’. After all, today’s world needs ideas that drive lasting engagement by creating a series of conversations, not just one.
I challenge you to look at the frequency with which your brand or your clients are creating a reason to engage and then compare that with the competition. While pace of engagement isn’t everything it is rapidly becoming a key measure of a brand and its value. So if you are trying to drive brand value, take a long hard look at how frequently you are engaging with customers, stakeholders and partners. In today’s world, it’s not the only way to drive brand value but it sure is a crucial one. Oh and while your are at it please make sure to feed my insatiable appetite for updates, insight etc. In todays’s world can you engage too much? Let’s leave that topic for another post.
Social commerce is where eCommerce and Social Networks meet. Effectively it’s an approach to eCommerce that embraces all the benefits of social marketing. It creates a way for people to see what their friends like and don’t like, what the influencers they trust think. More importantly it enables them to decide if they trust the business they are buying from. PR plays a huge role in social commerce. We create, influence and share content that buyers and sellers want access to. Yet, rarely do we get involved in understanding how PR fits in the social commerce sales cycle. We tend to analyze brands based on the online media and social media coverage around them and devise plans based on that analysis. What if we analyzed the conversations taking place in social commerce situations? If we learned what buyers were saying about our brands, what issues they were raising and what issues they weren’t paying attention to? To do this effectively, we need to be prepared to isolate the conversations in social commerce from the rest of the noise around the brand. Having done that we can see how these conversations are influenced by the conversations taking place in other forums such as the media, social networks etc. Put another way, PR has a real chance to become a key player in the sales process thanks to social commerce. It is not something we take on lightly but if we do grab hold of it, it could make a significant change to the role PR plays in business overall.