It’s no surprise that one of the main digital strategies for engaging your audience is, quite simply, Talking. But, when I think of “talking” I immediately think of being on the receiving end in a flurry of aggressively repeated information. Turns out I’m not alone. Typically, Marketing has involved Advertising; thriving on repetition, and Public Relations; taking advantage of free media and coverage to publish accomplishments. TV commercials are seen as more shouting than talking (groundswell, 2011) and the metrics of reach and frequency are missing an important measure; engagement. The way we do business is changing, so the way we talk to our customers needs adjusting as well.
Talking is not to be confused with Listening, Energizing, Supporting or Embracing, all effective digital marketing strategies. By Talking you are hoping to spread a message further, by expanding into more interactive channels by stimulating two-way conversations (groundswell, 2011).
A Broken Path
Heard of the Marketing funnel? If not, don’t worry, it’s broken anyway. Guiding our consumers from awareness to consideration, preference, action and then loyalty just doesn’t happen as frequently as we would like anymore. According to Forrester Research 2007, “Marketers no longer dictate the path people take, nor do they lead the dialogue” (groundswell, 2011). In other words, consumers lead the dialogue and these people are having conversations with more people whom all influence each other. If planned strategically, by using blogs, discussion forums, social networks or viral videos, a marketer can use that influence to reach objectives. Let’s take a look at a few main Talking techniques to see which one best fits your business goals.
The most common technique is likely engaging in social network and user generated content sites, with 59% of US adults, 41% of European adults and 29% Japanese adults participating based on 2010 data. With sites like Facebook and Twitter, not only do you have the visibility of the messages, but you also gain the exposure of the conversations that ensue. An example is Ernst & Young, who hire many college grads and take advantage of just this. They respond to incoming inquiries, but truly depend on the peer to peer interaction of the grads to save them time and money in the long run. Is social networking right for your company?
Make sure you know your target market by determining their Social Technographics profile. If at least 50% of your audience are Joiners, you might have good chance and while age is starting to be less of a determinant, if they are between 13 and 35, the likelihood of participation is higher. Do people already love your brand? Or at least “Like” it? (no Facebook pun intended). If you have a loyal following, the exposure will be easier. If not, the success can still be obtained by focusing on your strengths. Make sure to look at what social networking site groups or pages are already representing your brand, since you never know if these could be leveraged to your advantage. Did you know someone created a MySpace profile as Barack Obama that got shut down during his campaign? Did you also know it had over thirty thousand friends? Maybe they could have used that exposure to their advantage. You definitely want to make a presence that promotes interaction and conversation, with interactive elements that help facilitate this. How can you make it easier for a person to share and comment on a post and subsequently influence their peers? The Canadian Make A Wish Foundation’s Facebook page has added a “Donate Now” button alongside the standard Like and Message, bringing this need to the forefront. Or maybe your audience contains mostly Spectators, in which case blogging might be a better fit.
Blogging is pretty amazing, actually. It generates trust and stimulates discussion (groundswell, 2011). If your products and service are anything like HP’s, you might want to start thinking about a blog, or multiple for that matter. HP found that they could respond more effectively by reaching customers at the right stage in the funnel; somewhere in between consideration and preference and they could influence the Spectators that wouldn’t’ otherwise participate. When Windows Vista had a printing issue, they were able to resolve it via blog and it was shared among many people online. Blogging can stop a PR disaster in its tracks, generate high visibility, answer customer questions and eventually can lead to insight (groundswell, 2011). But blogging can be a huge expense, right? Look at the breakdown. You can determine a valid ROI analysis if you look at the potential value you gain in advertising, PR, word of mouth, support and research. Estimate this ROI before you get started. Next, listen. Get a hold on the buzz that’s already begun in your industry and take note. Then, set a goal. Will you be focusing on products? News? Make sure to develop a plan that includes who is blogging and when and an editorial process of who needs to review and approve. This can HALT any project if it’s not efficient. Develop a Marketing plan so the blog is actually found and read! This can include email campaigns, press releases, by using links to other interesting blogs and ensuring to use your tag words efficiently. Don’t forget to do a few trial runs to ensure this is viable. Remember, blogging is more than writing (groundswell, 2011) and comments and discussion are equally as important as the information. Lastly – be honest! Letting the world see our opinions, mistakes and solutions helps build credibility. We are all people after all.
Speaking on credibility, or lack there of, let’s talk about viral videos. Unless we’re talking about a company like Blendtec, with their successful “Will It Blend” series, I wouldn’t have given much thought to a viral video as a campaign. How do you promote a non profit organization’s vision or message with a video, that will actually go “viral”? Let’s look at a few examples that really brought awareness to their message and its importance. The company Water is Life is a non profit whose mission is to “provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene programs. Saving Lives. Transforming Communities.” One of their transformation efforts was, and still is, in Haiti, post earthquake. They created a video, using people in the local communities, to bring awareness to this need, in a unique way. First world problems, anyone?
This video from 2012 has been viewed over 7 million times and essentially hijacked an existing twitter hashtag called #firstworldproblems. According to data from Keyhole.co, this hashtag has a potential reach of 1.2 million (Patel, 2016). What an idea! This is the power of social media in action. Thanks to the donations made from the video, one of the boys in the video was involved with bringing clean water to his country (Water is Life, 2016). Amazing!
Another more current example is the new Spice Girls Wannabe remake, by Global Goals. This video was just posted on July, 5, 2016, and within two days already has over 700 thousand views and is a trending topic on Twitter under the #WhatIReallyReallyWant. Global Goals is bringing attention to the need for gender equality and awareness on “what we really really want for women and girls” like ending child marriage, violence against girls and gaining access to quality education to name a few (Global Goals, 2016). The need for this increased awareness is in preparation for the UN in September. It’s in one word – AWESOME – and has already drawn a lot of attention.
These types of viral videos would definitely take a strong Marketing plan and some initiative. Another aspect of videos is the B2B relationship. Although the audience would be much (MUCH) smaller than my two examples above, the goal may be different, so it could still have the potential for success.
Maybe your audience is more community minded, in that they share a unique trait already, that draws them to each other? Some consumers, like car enthusiasts, would have a natural affinity towards each other (groundswell, 2011) and share stories, ideas and influence each other. If most of your target market are Joiners and Critics, you might have more success with a community, where you can engage them as a group. Do they essentially, already HAVE a community? If so, then you need to be a part of it! Even using subtle branding can be successful, if it helps them solve a problem and want to share their experience. The main concern with starting a community is supporting it, so make sure you include a long term support system in your Marketing plan.
If Talking is your digital marketing strategy, one of the techniques listed above is recommended. Do you need to increase awareness? Brainstorm viral video ideas. Obtain word of mouth influence? Try social networking sites and turn it into a conversation. If your message is more complex, try the blogosphere and if your audience prefers to find information from each other, start a community and join the chatter. Whichever technique you choose, do us all a favour; stop shouting and start talking!
Charlene Li, J. B. (2011). groundswell. Forrester Research, Inc.
Global Goals. (2016, 07). Global Goals. Retrieved from http://www.globalgoals.org/
Patel, N. (2016, 01 28). http://www.inc.com. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/neil-patel/top-4-examples-of-effective-social-media-strategies-for-nonprofit-organizations.html
The Gift of Water. (2012, 10 03). YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/fxyhfiCO_XQ
The Global Goals. (2016, 07 05). YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/sZQ2RUFd54o
Water is Life. (2016, 07). Water is Life. Retrieved from https://waterislife.com
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Image by William Iven https://unsplash.com/photos/DfMMzzi3rmg