Well it seems that Bob Dylan was right The Times They Are a-Changin’ and five decades on the sheer pace of evolution, development and technology is, at times, staggering beyond comprehension. Whilst Dylan may have mainly been referencing poverty and racism in his work he did also sight social change which, in today’s world, is undoubtedly one of the most rapidly expanding platforms when put into a media context, with no sign of slowing down.
Looking back, just a few years ago, our marketing landscape was a very different place with the scope of brand to consumer communication limited to just a few key areas of engagement, namely television, radio and print advertising. It may not have seemed like it back then, but, compared to the modern day, it’s as if the planet was spinning at a tenth of the speed it is now, with traditional lines of communication from your brand, product or service to the end user. Often this would mean that the biggest companies, with the deepest pockets, could shout louder and for longer even if they didn’t have a great deal to say.
While all of those mediums are still available and relevant in one way, shape or form, it’s how the rise and rise of social media has engulfed traditional means that make things a lot more interesting and, in some respect, level the playing field to provide opportunities for everyone to be heard, from individuals to global enterprise, no matter how great or small.
The question is how to be heard among such a plethora of social hype and constant noise? And that’s a very good question indeed. I mean, if you haven’t engaged your audience within the first ten seconds on YouTube then it’s ‘click’ and onto the next video, or the tab is already open and it’s time to see what’s happening in the Twittersphere, or on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Google+ and the like. The list is endless and so is the constant barrage of message alerts, status updates, videos, photo streams and adverts from every waking (and sleeping) moment of the day.
So the answer is simple right? Pick a platform with millions of users and target your advertising to reach the masses as they surf the social wave. While on paper this may appear to be a sound theory, a small and affordable investment to potentially reach a huge global and highly targeted audience, just like most things in life it’s rarely as straight forward as it seems.
Take Facebook as a prime example. What’s the last advert that you can actually remember that appeared on your feed? Over 1 Billion users is a hugely impressive statistic, but if the ad’s aren’t engaging then how genuine is the actual reach? The constant messaging that we all face today means we’ve quickly evolved to ‘tune out’ anything that is of no significant importance. The human brain was never made to process the amount of information that is thrown at it today. Factor emails, meetings, spreadsheets, presentations, family and life into the equation, along with all of the above, and it’s obvious that you have to quickly acquire a robust filter that is able to focus on the content that is most important and engaging while disregarding everything else as background noise. Fortunately, the clever breed that we are, means we’ve evolved in such a way to do this subconsciously. Tune in to the important stuff, tune out to everything else.
The beauty of today’s social media architecture is that it allows a one-to-one personal connection that removes the barrier between brand and consumer to allow direct dialogue in a two-way flow of conversation. Businesses themselves do not have emotion, it’s the people within them that bring a brand to life and are able to deliver their experience, passion and personality in a way that only a human can and, most importantly, with true authenticity away from acronyms and marketing jargon. Consumers want to feel connected, respected and understood. To be part of something that they are passionate about and can relate to. Today everyone has a voice, so it’s important to take the time to listen. A one-to-one conversation can quickly become a one-to-all message as your advocates share their experiences further afield among their followers.
Look for opportunities to help and bring added value to the conversation, offering advice or experience to better your human-to-human relationship in everything that you do. Identify opinion leaders in your market, and opportunities to engage and join the conversation with your consumers. Build a relationship and spread your message in plain English with authenticity and credibility in a way that takes your business and makes it a resource, enriching, inspiring and becoming an integrated part of the lives of everyone you meet and greet. Just like life, social media is a journey and the opportunities have never been better to make it an amazing ride for everyone, you just need to understand how to tune in, listen and engage in the right way.