Kathie Melocco - Health Activism

Blog dedicated to Social Justice and Health and Wellbeing Activism

June 11, 2010

Is your business innovative enough in this era of social media?

The inexorable rise of web-based content, social media and mobile devices is forcing marketers to take a long hard look at their online brand presence and digital reputation. And this digital influence is happening at such a rapid rate that it is often hard for businesses to mobilise their efforts fast enough to keep up with the online consumer evangelism now taking place.

Smart businesses are reorganising resources, skills and processes to adjust to the new reality of conversational and participative media. Concepts of paid, owned and earned media provide a useful prism through which to plan campaigns and attract new customers.

This re-engineering, if you like means that no longer can you delegate your digital requirements to your resident ‘geek’. We are now in the era where everyone is a marketer and, a geek by default given the rapid offering of new technologies being launched almost daily.

But how do you know what technology and communication needs are suitable for your business. The offering is so diverse that it can be overwhelming. It starts with what you want to communicate and how? Mobility is the key. One company who specialises in assisting businesses assess their communication needs independent of any of the carriers or vendors is Team Telecom.

According to General Manager, Tony Carrozza, “Every business from 20 people to those employing thousands has productivity challenges. There is little place for off the shelf and customisation sends fear into the hearts of the finance manager. The market is highly customisable but sometimes the innovation is ahead of what the business actually perceives is possible. It is surprising how much technology out there that was designed for one purpose but deployed and viewed in another application can deliver significant productivity and financial benefits. The bottom line is to provide what the customer needs to communicate in this new digital era, not what the vendor has.” says Carrozza.

The other area business needs to get its head around is the notion of big brands continuing to establish complex and expensive marketing outposts in the form of corporate websites. These ''owned'' media formats provided a safe and controlled environment where brands could lay out their stall. This was the first phase of the web and is now outdated and restrictive to operating in the web 2.0 landscape.
Why? The game changed completely with phase two. Social media today consumes more than six hours of the average online Australian's time every month. Confronted, almost affronted, by the empowered customer many brands are soul-searching for a reason to engage and a manageable social media strategy.

Consumers, your customers, in every form are drawn to social media because it allows them to create their own experience. The opportunity to generate ''earned'' media in the form of word-of-mouth recommendations and advocacy within social networks, forums and blogs has sparked a gold rush with each marketing discipline laying claim to what will be a major source of income for the industry.

The successful brands online will be those that understand their customer, optimise their various marketing channels, identify the connection points between media types and deliver a consistent message or experience. The metaphor is a river, with a source of strategic messaging that trickles down to a variety of channel connection point.

The branded website, an owned media format, will play an important role in this mix but not in its current form. In most cases, traffic to branded websites is in decline. It's no wonder given the brand-centric rather than user-centric nature of most and their poor search functionality. Today's branded websites are, in the main, Web 1.0 hangovers, which prioritise presentation and usability over content and interaction. Content today is king.

The theory behind digital PR and marketing is that relevant experiences facilitated by brands will build relationships which make customers more inclined to take action, such as share content, click 'Like' in Facebook, make a recommendation to a friend or colleague via Twitter or make a purchase.

The mistake branded websites make is to act as e-commerce shopfronts or online brochures. They fail to understand the user and bury the subtle relationship-building content. Social media is user-centric; its currency is human voices and entertaining content. It provides brands with a platform for conversation. Here, value lies in the content as opposed to the context. There's no need for high value production. The human voice is, however, almost completely absent from branded websites.

A recent social media study by B&M found that just 20 per cent of the top 20 brands in Australia have a company blog. Yet we have seen the rise of super bloggers who influence your customers about everything imaginable. Suffice to say, if you don’t have a dialogue with your customers via a blog then you miss a powerful opportunity. Further, only 10 per cent of corporate newsrooms offered video downloads, yet You Tube dominates consumer and business downloads not just for fun but for intelligent insightful commentary. With social media, customers build relationships that shape discovery and add features that personalise their experience. Branded websites treat every customer equally, presenting each with a limited number of choices and predestined workflows. Future efforts will be highly personalised.

At the end, the same the same principles apply. It all starts with vision, strategy and innovation. Where do you want to be as a business. Not what have you been doing to date...Think outside the box, because anything is now possible. And that is the very issues, those that adapt cleverly to the new digital world with innovation have tremendous commercial opportunities. It is however challenging for old school businesses to move away from the linear mode of communication to the new interactive dialogue with customers and business.

If we crystal ball gaze it is fairly obvious that we will see the rise of a new band of trusted advisors in micro niche specific areas working with business. Why? Change is so rapidly upon us that it is simply impossible to keep up to the minute with every relevant change and that’s where these new micro advisers will emerge. Ensure you have trusted and expert counsel in the area of technology provision, marketing counsel who are abreast of new web 2.0 developments, establish appropriate social media policies and guidelines but make them empowering, you have the opportunity to turn everyone in your organisation into a sales person. And of course, work to make your customers your evangelists. There will be times when you have dissatisfied customers in the social media space too, take note, respond and work to correct their concerns quickly and transparently.

But to succeed in this new digital era it must start at the top, the CEO has to embrace this new paradigm of communication and rapidly to compete. Make sure your make it your business to explore the future and innovation is the key.

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