Social media; get over it.
It’s no longer a shiny new tool; it’s just the way we communicate now, and like it or not it’s here to stay. Our lives are no longer on and offline – we are creating seamless paths between the two. A complete lifestyle enriched and enabled by technology rather than engulfed by it. Welcome to the post-digital era.
So what does this mean for marketing?
One thing is clear – consumers are more demanding. You need to engage with them in ways that suit them; tap into their lifestyle, technology habits, interests and needs. It’s no longer enough for Directors and CEOs to broadcast company messages from the top down and expect consumers to listen. Businesses need to speak up and out, engage with consumers in the horizontal conversation and appeal to them as real people, not as a sales target.
Here are my six tips to keep calm and market on in 2014:
1. Build trust
Customers are more empowered than ever before, and they want to spend money with companies they know and trust. This means communicating openly and authentically with your consumers across every channel, in other words be transparent.
2. Tell stories
At the heart of communication lies good old-fashioned storytelling. The primal, human urge to connect and communicate through stories is alive and well. You need to spark an emotional reaction; make your content appeal to people’s lifestyles, problems, interests and needs. This applies even if you only have a 140-character tweet to get your message across.
3. Make your content consumable
Content has always been important, but now how you make that content valuable to your audience and easily digestible, whatever format it takes, is the crux of the marketing challenge.
And remember: one size doesn’t fit all. What content works for Twitter, will be different for Instagram and again for a press release. Having a recognisable voice, however is still key. Consumers want seamless interaction with brands and companies at every touch point.
4. Presume nothing
So social media is a gen-y thing? Think again. The majority of LinkedIn users are over 35. And you may be surprised to know the fastest growing Twitter demographic is 55-64 year olds.
Think print media is a dead? You would only have had to attend the recent Modern Magazine conference to hear firm reassertion of the power of the printed word. There is no longer a need to mount a defence of print – it is time to celebrate print and see digital culture as a partner not a competitor.
Think your online messages should be trying to grab the attention of social-media addicts? Remember, for every one person commenting on social media there are another 20 people observing. You have to make your content appeal to the silent majority.
Ultimately, the marketing landscape is constantly shifting; don’t make presumptions about your audience, their interests or preferences. Do your research.
5. Appeal to ’generation me’
We are living in ‘generation me’ where consumers can create their own brand, have a public profile and cultivate online celebrity status. Companies must understand the importance of this. From a simple re-tweet or a personalized email, to rewarding your loyal customers and publicly shining a spotlight on happy customers, it is vital brands recognize customers as individuals.
Content is what draws the consumers in; but you need context too. Context marketing is about respecting your audience, their limited attention spans and pinpointing your message to what they actually want; it’s a prerequisite to creating a strong customer-base.
6. Remember quality over quantity
You’ve finally mastered Twitter and you’ve got a business Facebook page set up, but hang on, there’s online advertising to be thinking about, and there’s bloggers to approach, there’s Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat to be thinking about too. Slow down, take a breath and think about what your business objectives are.
Whose attention are you trying to get; identify your target audience and where they congregate. And then figure out how you can offer them something no one else can. Ensuring everyone in the company knows what you are trying to achieve through each platform and how, adds focus and strategy to your marketing activities.
So as we look back on 2013, all awash with selfies, #HashtagEverything, babies with digital footprints, Instagram-my-life, this is the year social media got, how shall we say it, common? Let’s turn our marketing attention to ‘generation me’, and say hello to 2014, the year for honesty, integrity and real people marketing. Forget the technology – it’s incidental. What we really need is to deliver content that is valuable and consumable, whatever the format.