Look in the mirror. If you’ve seen that face for longer than 45 years, you were already a teenager by the time Windows was first launched as an operating system in 1985 and when the internet came into formal existence in 1982. You were not born into the internet age, but your kids were – the Millennial Generation was, and Generation Z was.
If you were born after the mid 1990s or from the mid 2000s – you’re wired and the world is designed to communicate specifically with you. Many members of this generation are highly connected, having had lifelong use of communication and media technology like the World Wide Web, instant messaging, text messaging, MP3 players, and mobile phones, earning them the nickname “digital natives”. Ironical then that so many business are run by old but smart fogeys who know that there’s something they need to do differently to get over this perceived communication chasm. Just look at that map of global internet usage – twinkling away all over the world.
“The bottom line, is that the internet is ‘a giant machine designed to give people what they want.’ It’s not a utopia. It’s not magical. It’s simply an engine of convenience. Those who can tune that engine well — who solve basic human problems with greater speed and simplicity than those who came before — will profit immensely. Those who lose sight of basic human needs — who want to give people the next great idea — will have problems. We often think of the internet enables you to do new things, but people just want to do the same things they’ve always done.” – Twitter Founder, Ev Williams
Now consider that, if you’ve caught on to the fact that it’s NOT business as usual in B2B marketing, so have other people in your age group: A general trend in online social networking is the growing number of adults using them.
“Nearly seven-in-ten Americans now use social media. When the [Pew Research] Center started tracking social media adoption in 2005, just 5% of Americans said they used these platforms. Today, 69% of U.S. adults are social media users. Social media is especially popular among younger adults, as 86% of 18- to 29-year-olds are social media users. But a substantial majority of those ages 30-49 (80%) and 50-64 (64%) use social media as well. Only about one-third (34%) of Americans 65 and older currently use social media, but that figure has grown dramatically in recent years: As recently as 2010, only around one-in-ten Americans age 65 and older used social media.” (Jan. 12, 2017, Record shares of Americans now own smartphones, have home broadband, by Aaron Smith, Pre Research Centre, based on surveys conducted 2002 – 2017)
This is a significant jump up from February 2005, when just 8% of online adults said they used social networking sites. Today, social networking site use is a major activity for internet users from a wide range of demographic groups. Younger adults are especially avid adopters, but social networking continues to grow in popularity for older adults as well. Six out of ten internet users ages 50-64 are social networking site users, as are 43% of those ages 65 and older. And people can spend more time of social networking sites, because around the world broadband use is growing. People are “always on”, the dial-up tone is a thing of the past.
Implications for online business communications
Nowadays YOU and your CLIENT and your MARKET and your potential and current EMPLOYEES all:
- look for volume and speed of information;
- want variety and sensory appeal;
- look for new routes to their “favourite things”;
- may or may not be a member of the “Fifth Estate” and into community activism;
- occasionally vent / rage / fume / criticize online;
- have varying attention zones: on/off/on-off/don’t care/hey what?!;
- deep dive into info that interests them;
- expect real-time, real-world data
These users all experience “collapsed context of meaning” (they flit from piece to piece of information so quickly, and text are so short, that the context and the meaning collapses or gets reduced to the bare minimum. (And a little knowledge is a dangerous thing…). It is highly likely that you are also an information user of this type.
And to put the end to this argument, think for a second: – seriously, when last have you actually faxed a document to anyone? And have you seen a laptop with a modem dongle lately? (Yes, that dangly thingie with which you used to dial up for an internet connection.) So, all these things being the facts of marketing in the modern world, just how do you do marketing? Well, start with picking your media and channels.
Picking your media and channels
If you intend to communicate to build a base of clients by using the internet, you should start by at least getting the hard facts on these people – who are they? What do they do? How old are they? Where do they live? How to they access information? Firstly, many of them – 2/3 of adults, and 3/4 of teenagers, will be creating their own information on the internet. That old saying of nature abhorring a vacuum is especially true for communications. If you think you can sit back and say nothing about your company, product or service, realize that people you don’t even know will be saying it for you. Whatever you put out, people will personally filter, or it will be filtered automatically by built-in algorithms of search engines and portals. And then it will be re-used and endlessly syndicated.
So, apart from being in specific formats and distributed via specific channels, the information you communicate must be:
- prepared for filtering and syndication;
- constantly edited and added to;
- just in time (either your news and comment is hot or it’s too late);
- timeless – when it’s on the internet it’s there forever;
- searchable (when last have you opened a pdf from which you could not cut and paste?);
- rich in content;
- intelligent (also polite – don’t be a ranter);
- transparent and honest (there’s no hiding on the internet);
- checked for copyright
A quick lesson in Content vs Social Media Marketing
The trend in modern marketing is Content Marketing, of which Social Media Marketing may or may not be a part – depending who is in your market. Content Marketing is used by companies to educate, inform or entertain customers or prospects by creating attention or causing behaviour that results in leads, sales or advocacy. Social Media, on the other hand, is used by customers and prospects to communicate among themselves, and occasionally with companies. With social media, your information is on someone else’s platform. With Content Marketing, your information is on your own platform. With Social Media, you may get some attention and build a network, but you share the limelight and the limitations with millions of others, and you are subject to the platform’s filtering algorithms. With Content Marketing, all the attention your really useful information gets you is your own. Every RSS, every Like, every Follow and every Share is all yours. So you can use social media in your marketing strategy, but it’s better to use it with other media so you can get all the glory yourself. You have to get your story out there, and however you format it, your story has to conform to the criteria listed above.
“Content marketing and storytelling are as old as human beings. We have always needed to find ways to convey important information in useful and entertaining ways. Social media is just the latest evolution in the way we can tell the stories. I think soon we will drop the “social” and go back to calling it plain old ‘media’.” – Michael Brenner at B2BMarketingInsider and SAP
That being said, here are some of the media, channels and tools that Content Marketers use (and remember – whether they work or not depends on the Quality of Information).
Media, channels and tools
- Own websites content and updates on pages
- Long-form and short-form posts
- Social media content (tweets, Linkedin company page posts, Facebook updates, etc.)
- Photos, maps
- Lists – summarized and shortened information
- Video blogs / videos
- e-mail marketing (taking into account anti-spam laws in specific jurisdictions)
- e-newsletters; digital newspapers
- White papers, case studies, research reports
- PR: opinion pieces, announcements, analyses, reviews
- e-books / printed books (actual books with hard data)
- e-magazines (with the emphasis on beautiful design and exclusive info)
Essentially, all of any of these media means communicating at an accelerated pace: you will never be able to have an outdated fact on a webpage. Never a week will go by without fresh information sent out or published. All your links on your pages work. All your designs are easy on the eye. All your info is deep and good. And throughout, your passion for what you do comes though. If you’ve got nothing to say about your business, don’t even try. Some companies do get it right and as many that get it wrong. A lot of getting it right has to with getting the story right first, then getting the media for telling it right.
“Why did McDonald’s post signs saying, ‘More than a billion sold’? Enough with the facts and figures and features and benefits. They rarely move people into action. It’s our worldview (the way we acted and believed and judged before we encountered you) and your story (the narrative we tell ourselves about who you and and what you do) that drive human behavior. We make two giant mistakes as marketers: We believe that everyone has the same worldview, that everyone in a group shares the same biases and expectations and dreams as everyone else… and, We believe that the narrative is up for grabs, and we ought to just make the thing we make. An accurate description of a worldview has nothing to do with you or your mission… it’s the way a person acts without youin the room. In the case of McDonald’s, it’s the worldview of: I don’t want to take a risk in this transaction, and one way to do that is to follow the crowd. And the story is the (true) narrative that unlocks that worldview and turns it into action. Tell me what your ideal customer believes, at the most emotional and primordial level, and then you can tell me the story you’ll craft and live and deliver that engages with that belief.” – Seth Godin, Marketing guru