Information hunters and gatherers

(Source: “The Bourne Supremacy,” Universal Pictures)

“Nothing in those files makes their sacrifice worthwhile. You have to let go. We’re professionals, when an operation goes bad, we tie it off.”Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), The Bourne Supremacy, Universal Pictures (2004)

The world of new media (widgets, social apps, sites, services) looks like beautiful marketing hunting grounds for everyone looking to move consumer/business products and, especially, the burgeoning entertainment arena. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The first thing they do in the morning is check to see who posted something that’s getting lots of traffic, post their masterpieces, and as they climb into bed, check to ensure people commented/responded favorably.

They create/upload/download audios/videos, hoping they’ll be of interest to everyone. They congregate at business/special interest apps and websites to gain information and be entertained. They tweet. They tik… and tok. They gather daily/nightly in online product/interest communities to exchange information, news, share films/shows, and just hang out. They leave a digital fingerprint of who they are, who/what they like/don’t like, what they do/don’t do, where they go/don’t go, and when they do all this stuff.

Communities abound—On the Internet today, it is literally impossible to think of a subject or idea that doesn’t have an online community where people share information, ideas, news, and thoughts. The key concern for marketers is how to become a part of folks’ communities with their products/services. (Source: InternetWatch)

Finding prospective customers is just as Jason Bourne noted, “It’s easy. She’s standing right next to you.”

Once you’re on the Web, nothing is private for them… or you. Suddenly, people, good and evil, can learn everything about you. The profile can be so finite, you can pick any prospect—partner, consumer/viewer, channel partner, supplier—out of the mob and hit him/her with your message, with little or no collateral damage. It’s no wonder companies/organizations of all shapes, sizes, product/service categories will drop an estimated $1.5 billion on social media advertising this year. 

Social spending

By 2025, the investment should double. There are billions of reasons for the interest beyond being the most direct means of reaching partners/customers. It’s also the most undiluted, most direct, and most cost-effective means of learning about customers—businesses and consumers.

The challenge is in really understanding the most efficient/effective social media outlets, how they work/interact, which avenues you should focus on using, how to measure your social media results… and the downsides.

Social media:

  • Provides an unfiltered view of consumer perceptions so organizations can see what will impact the future of their business.
  • Its word of mouth is having a tremendous control over perception and acceptance.
  • Its user community sites and creation outlets provide valuable (if studied analytically rather than emotionally) user experience, response, feedback.
  • Can generate effective viral campaigns for products, services, and projects.
  • Is an arena dominated (by a factor of five) by early adopters (revolutionaries).
  • Will become increasingly significant in influencing companies and creative projects, according to the revolutionaries.
  • Provides a unique opportunity to connect with contemporaries and customers to gain feedback and learn from it.

Social media is all about people. It’s where people share opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives, and samples of their work with others. The demand, the interest, and the need are growing in leaps and bounds. From time to time, Chicken Littles forecast the death of Web outlets, victims of their own success.

After all, Internet traffic will quadruple this year.

The volume of content and information that is being streamed, pushed, and pulled across the Internet is overwhelming—and that includes Internet video, Web/email/data, online gaming, and file sharing. In addition, emerging-country users are adding their workload to the demand for more and more broadband capabilities. You may complain about the volume of email and spam you have to deal with every day, but baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet!  

Traffic growth

OTT streaming (PVOD, AVOD, SVOD) has gained a lot of traction in the past two years and is continuing to expand across the globe. VoIP is drawing customers and profits from phone folks. The interest in audio and video podcasts are gaining large audiences. And as the MPAA and RIAA are quick to point out, peer-to-peer sharing of video/audio is growing so fast, they can’t hire enough lawyers to stop the flow.

As Abbott (Cox) said in The Bourne Supremacy, “That sounds ominous. Let me check my schedule.”

A long time ago, blogs were to be the fast, meaningful, effective, cheap way to reach customers. Today, the hot button is tweets and TikToks. The 140-character chats are the new marketing/sales/communications breed of choice. The self-created and professional narrow-screen videos are not just entertaining (sometimes), they also increase people’s interest in upcoming movies/shows. The dynamics of business as usual have changed so dramatically (internally and externally) that management has lost its traditional chain of command control of messengers and messages.

Blogs, posts, tweets, wikis, and business/social networks give everyone the tools to work/play more efficiently, more effectively. Work/leisure, colleague/competitor, and customer/prospect people move in and out of the networks, forcing us to rethink org charts and work/information flow. It’s organic, it’s super-marketing, it’s super-communications in a real-time world. The proponents of each avenue claims unbridled success imprecisely pinpointing value and ROI. Traditional metrics are difficult, if not impossible, because you simply can’t find the beginning and end points.

Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) explained it best when she said, “The objectives and targets always came from us. Who’s giving them to him now?”

As huge and as effective as email, posted communications/opinions, and file transfers are, increasing their demand on the Internet and their use is miniscule compared to the bandwidth that entertainment is consuming. For most individuals and businesses, it is the online video opportunities that create the most interest and the most attention. The ability to attract and identify eyeballs as people turn from reading to video viewing is…  huge!!!

Online viewing is changing one of the entertainment/marketing communities’ most traditional (and profitable) means of reaching the “market.” 

Viewer shift—The Internet is turning the content creation and entertainment industry on its ear, as people increasingly expect to view any content they want, whenever they want to watch it. The concern is how to profitably monetize the new entertainment outlet. 

Some (tech/studio providers and Wall Street) are proud to say that online video viewing will quickly eliminate conventional TV as rapidly as it killed print media.

Traditionalists live

They love to deride traditional media—print and TV. But these “ancient” forms of communications, news, and entertainment are still important in building brand awareness. Companies and marketing folks who choose one over the other don’t understand or acknowledge the dynamics of traditional media and how it integrates with new media. 

For example:

  • Media synergy is important. Three media were better than two, and two media were better than one.
  • The combination of TV and print provided more lift than TV plus online.
  • TV and magazines produced the greatest awareness, and each contributed more impact than online.
  • Print is most effective in increasing purchase intent…
    • Including a URL address in ads significantly increased Web visits.
    • Offline media perform well in driving Web traffic and searches, often better than online media.
    • Each medium influences online behavior differently and plays a distinctive role.
    • “Qualified” search offers quite different and informative results than “total” search results.

What management often overlooks is the fact that widgets and social media weren’t prepared for them to control their message to unsuspecting prospects. They were created to enable sites to gather user data and sell ads. Or, as CIA agent John Nevins explained in the film, “Locked it down? No, no… this is… this is Italy—they don’t exactly ‘lock down.’”

Ads may get partners/consumers to your website to learn more about the product/service, but their next stop in the purchasing process is to surf the Web, learning about people’s customer service experience. 

Straight scoop

Use any search engine to find out about any product/service (yours and competitors), and thousands of online social media references appear… instantly!

Increasingly, when people are considering the purchase of a product/service, they will ask not only friends and family, but they will also search the Web for support issues and problem resolution. People will accept the fact that there will be issues and problems. The deciding factor is how the company addresses and resolves the issues. 

People who purchase note that:

  • 74% choose companies/brands based on others’ customer-care experiences shared online.
  • 72% research companies’ customer care online prior to purchasing products and services at least sometimes.
  • 84% consider the quality of customer care at least sometimes in their decision to do business with a company.
  • 84% consider the quality of customer care in their decision to do business with a company at least sometimes.
  • 81% say blogs, online rating systems, and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care, but less than 33% say they believe that businesses take customers’ opinions seriously.

Bite the bullet

Producers and marketeers who leveraging social media to address customer-care issues are finding it’s just good business. Just as Pamela Landy said, “If there’s something you’re not telling me, I want it now before I send that girl out there, do you understand?” Knowing from firsthand inputs can save you from a lot of sleepless nights… or worse. The tough part is listening, responding (appropriately), and improving products, processes, and services. 

Ads may interest consumers and may even help them focus on two or more optional solutions. But when it comes to making a purchasing decision, the tendency is to have the experience of others be the guiding light. So, while they may like your ads, they make their purchasing decisions based on peers.

According to BIGresearch, instant messages, blogs, and other social media have a greater influence over product purchases. To paraphrase advertising luminary David Ogilvy, “Advertising lights the fire, public relations fans the flame, and widgets/social media whip it into a firestorm!”

Ignoring the influences that the company can’t control is foolhardy. The key to survival is to listen… respond… improve… repeat.

Turn on you—Web tools/activities are exceptionally effective at being able to reach specific prospective customers in the crowd. The only problem is consumers also have the easy ability to reach out to other viewers/customers just as effectively. Suddenly, you’re in the crosshairs. 

Understanding how to effectively use—and listen to—the online activity is beyond being just a nice thing to do today.

As Bourne said, “We don’t have a choice.”