customer engagement

Social Media: ‘Evolving, Not Just a Fad’

What may seem like a fad to some is actually a serious evolution in people’s need to connect with family, friends and brands. Social media has already evolved and will evolve even more, but unless you engage, you will never know when it has evolved to something else.

What may seem like a fad to some is actually a serious evolution in people’s need to connect with family, friends and brands. Social media has already evolved and will evolve even more, but unless you engage, you will never know when it has evolved to something else.

Social media has exploded onto the firmament, but is it just a fad or here to stay? One Millennial expert says social media will hang around and evolve.

“Social media staves off extinction by creating new updates and evolving in order to keep their users interested,” writes Sophia Meyer*, a senior at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. “Twitter has evolved from being a place to tweet about what you ate for breakfast to a hub for news sources and live updates.”

Social media staying power and adaptability erases the excuse for many business leaders to wait out its demise. In fact, the evolution of social media argues for why it is imperative to hop aboard.

Sophia Meyer wrote an essay about social media’s staying power as part of a job interview as she prepared to graduate and enter the professional PR job market.

Sophia Meyer wrote an essay about social media’s staying power as part of a job interview as she prepared to graduate and enter the professional PR job market.

“Social media users today are not only using social sites to connect with their friends and peers, but they are increasingly using them as their primary news source,” Meyer observes. “The popularity of social media and the opportunity it provides for engagement with customers has made it the number one tool for companies to build their brand and target specific audiences.”

Where once social media was a medium to share your “status,” it has evolved into a platform to share content, including commercial content, Meyer says.

There may be a better venue down the line, but for now social media is the key channel to connect with potential customers and deepen loyalty with existing customers. A big piece of evidence is the rise of influencer marketing. Influencers, who can range from celebrities to bloggers, rank nearly as high as friends in trust and the ability to influence a buy decision.

Meyer suggests social media is not your grandfather’s phone book. And you shouldn’t expect social media to be your grandson’s fave.

“Social media is an ever-trending topic that has seen its fair share of positive evolution, and even fails,” she says. “One thing can be certain, however, social media is here to stay. While its users change and evolve, its features change and evolve, and its content evolves, individuals will always demand social media in one form or another.”

That is a nuanced argument for jumping on the social media bandwagon to avoid missing the next trend because you haven’t experienced the current one.

“Humans will always desire to connect with each other, share their thoughts and opinions, and consume a variety of content,” Meyer asserts. “Social media remains, and will remain, the main hub for all of those human needs.”

*Sophia Meyer, Gary Conkling’s daughter, wrote an essay about the longevity and adaptability of social media as part of a job interview.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

Marketing Principles in an Evolving, Disruptive Marketplace

The 4Ps of marketing have been around for quite a while, but changing customer expectations, new technology and disruptive businesses demand adapting those principles to reach and persuade today’s consumers

The 4Ps of marketing have been around for quite a while, but changing customer expectations, new technology and disruptive businesses demand adapting those principles to reach and persuade today’s consumers

The 4 Ps have been the axioms of marketing for decades, but are they still relevant in the digital age? Sort of.

Product, price, promotion and place provide a framework for marketing plans – what are you selling, at what price, with what kind of promotion and through what channels. It is hard to get more basic than that.

However, the explosion of communication channels and the erosion of traditional media channels has made marketing these days anything but basic.

Jonathan Bacon, writing for Marketing Week, suggests the 4Ps have become more like guideposts than roadways to marketing success. He quotes one marketer as saying, “Marketing is no longer about what businesses want to tell their customers, it is about businesses listening to their customers and responding in a way that offers a meaningful solution to them.” Customer relationship management doesn’t exactly fit into the 4Ps as “promotion.”

Bacon notes that while “price” continues to play a role in customer decision-making, marketers must demonstrate why a product offers “value.”

Matt Barwell, consumer management officer for a beverage company, tells Bacon he has added two of his own Ps – purpose and penetration. Brands need purpose to exhibit consistency in product quality and their brand promise, which is emerging as a critical differentiator. Penetration is essential to the success of any marketing strategy, which translates into putting marketing messages in channels where intended customers are watching.

Ignoring the 4Ps can be risky, Bacon says, as many brands have discovered by chasing, but not catching fast-moving digital crowds. It’s like driving in a strange land without a roadmap.

The solution lies in adapting the 4Ps to the contours of a specific product’s shape or a brand personality. Offering free samples in a grocery store is different, but not that much different than providing samples to an influential blogger who will write a review. Both are promotions, and both seek to build a relationship.

New technology, including artificial intelligence and virtual reality, will profoundly alter the marketing landscape of the future. And that doesn’t take into account disruptive products and services. Who would have imagined Amazon in the food space or SpaceX in the colonization of Mars business? It will definitely make marketing even more challenging.

The 4Ps represent the established wisdom of marketing. Success these days doesn’t require rejecting 4P-principles. Instead, the 4Ps can be a compass of what to watch for in the marketplace so you don’t convince yourself that a low price, a clever ad or lots of followers on Facebook will take you to the promised land.

Marketing principles still apply. They simply have become a whole lot more complicated to apply.

 

Letting Your Weird, Creative Side Shine

Many young people have deserted Facebook for photo-sharing on Instagram. For brands trying to appeal to a younger demographic, Instagram is the place to be.

In the land of selfies, it takes clever marketing to score on this photo-centered social media platform. Instagram also involves more than simple sharing or "likes." It appeals to people who like to engage and be part of something.

For example, a music group called The Vaccines asked its Instagram users to take photos at shows and festivals to crowd source a music video. Others have employed Instagram for online fundraising, using fetching photos to tell the story about the fundraising recipient.

Instagram isn't for everybody. If you and your customers like to produce and read lengthy white papers, choose another channel. But it you can let creative side loose, Instagram can be a fun and informative avenue to activate your audience.

Responding to Negative Online Reviews

Negative reviews are a fact of life for many businesses, so it's time to bone up on how to respond effectively and report the ones that are fake.Online reviews have emerged as an important decision-making tool for consumers, especially for restaurants and service providers. Now they also have to dodge the impact of fake negative reviews.

A recent study reports that 16 percent of restaurant reviews on Yelp are fraudulent and often are extremely negative.

With the stakes high in the court of public opinion, here are some steps to take to fight back:

Past, Future and Passion

Branding is a lot like dating. To build a lasting relationship, you need a good first impression, shared values and dreams and lots of genuine engagement.The new premium in marketing is forging relationships with your customers. There is no better way to build rapport than sharing your past, future and passion.

Relationship marketing isn't all that different from dating. You zero in on someone who appeals to you. You find a way to make an introduction, hopefully leaving a positive first impression. Then comes the discovery part of a relationship where you tell about your past, talk about your dreams and reveal your passions. If there is a match, the relationship blossoms, especially when there is genuine engagement.

Promoting your brand in today's environment has those same qualities. You have to get noticed by your target audience. You want to make a memorable first impression. Then you tell about your product roots, outline the future and show your passion in an interactive relationship.

What Original Content Reveals

If your original online content reflects your core brand, it will reveal why you are special.Aggregating content from multiple sources is the role of media and reference websites. If you blog to market your services or display thought leadership, you need to create original content relevant to your target audience.

Your insights and reflections are what differentiate you from others and attract followers, clicks and shares. They also are the stuff that incites engagement.

To engage customers or constituents, you need to be engaged with your subject. Talk about what you know, what you feel, what you believe. Share your experiences. Be the expert people are looking to find.

Borrowing and circulating what someone else knows, feels or believes is akin to advertising your competitors. It's fine to quote a source that inspires or informs your thought, but why rehash someone else's work at the expense of sharing your own?

Making Your Facebook Page a Fan Magnet

Much effort is exerted to get someone to "like" your Facebook page. Equal or greater effort is needed to earn a return visit.

Businesses and organizations spend a lot of time and money to accumulate a large number of followers. But if you don't give them any reason to follow you closely, it is a paper army.

People, even your most devoted fans, are busy. They will only return to your Facebook page when there is a reason. Giving them a good reason is your challenge.

Contests and events attract interest. So does quality content that informs or inspires. Best of all is some type of engagement, in which you ask for their ideas or involvement. Blogs routinely trot out lists of things to do to bolster your Facebook ranks and keep them excited. In truth, there isn't a formula for success. Each brand, organization or cause needs to find its own sweet spot.

A contest may be inappropriate to raise awareness and recruit financial donors for a cause. Events may be impractical for certain kinds of products or services.

What brings people back, including fans, is engaging content of interest to them. If you are in sync with your target audience, that may seem like a natural expression to you. If not, you need to talk to your fan base or potential fan base to find out what they like about you and what they want to know more about.