Much has been made of the way that people interact online. There have been a lot of discussions about how the attention spans of social media users are getting shorter, and possibly more superficial. In many ways there is some truth to this point of view. Many interactions in the social web are light and apparently meaningless. Even the names of some of the platforms, like Twitter, imply frivolity.
But don’t be confused by the apparent meaninglessness of some interactions in the social web. What is happening may seem like a waste of time but the communications can also be profound – and you need to be a part of them.
The social web, and more specifically platforms like Facebook and Twitter, allow brands to develop relationships with their customers in ways that have never existed before. Customer loyalty has always been recognised as incredibly important, but developing metrics that measure things other than swiping a card at the point of purchase has been difficult.
Now it’s not. With a well designed and executed social media strategy, companies can identify and reward the most loyal and vocal customers. The brand evangelists who actively encourage others to purchase from their favourite brand.
‘Speed dating’ marketing is out, romancing is in.”
The companies doing this the best are the ones who understand that they need to create a relationship with each customer – they need to recognise that each customer is unique, and reward people for interacting with the brand. Customers now have more power to voice an opinion than ever before, and they will do it whether you are participating or not. It is no longer good enough to simply treat customers as something to convert into a sale then move on. ‘Speed dating’ marketing is out, romancing is in.
The brilliant people who work for Facebook understand this better than most. In fact, they have recently changed the way that advertising works within Facebook to incentivise brands to be more active and engaging. Facebook knows that the real value from their platform comes from the engagement that creates longer term relationships. And they are now changing the game within Facebook so everybody else gets that too. It is likely that the recent changes to the Facebook platform will be game-changers for some brands. Others, particularly brands who have been looking at social media as just a broadcast channel, are going to struggle. What is certain is that Facebook’s advertising revenue is set to make another giant leap as brands are incentivised to engage with customers more – and use Facebook even more as a result.
As a marketer you have many choices about how you treat your audience. You can develop techniques that let customers know you understand who they are and how they wish to be communicated with and you can engage them in creative interesting ways – creating long term relationships. Or you can look at the customers as numbers to be churned through quickly. We all know that being treated as an individual is more effective – and now it seems there is going to be an additional financial benefit to it.
So you can view the social web as a place where people waste time and generate low value. But it is up to you, as a marketer, to change the way your customers interact with you. Social media is fast paced and there can be a lot of distractions. To really stand out you need to create meaningful experiences – that can turn into happy long term relationships.