Why you need to stop advertising and start engaging your audience
Throwing your money at TV, radio and newspaper ads is not only unnecessary but potentially detrimental to your brand. Consumers are people - just like you and me. We like to be entertained, challenged, inspired, moved, motivated... not sold to, shouted at, spoken to like we're ignorant.
Traditional advertising speaks to the audience and tells them what they should think. Modern marketing has a conversation with the audience and asks them what they think and why. And that ladies and gentlemen is the key difference between modern marketing and traditional advertising. So how exactly do you have a conversation with your audience?
Create and curate
Just like this very blog post, you should be sharing helpful content with your audience. There are several ways of doing this:
1. Create 'top' lists. A quick and simple to create content it to curate existing content into your own, unique blog post. Let's pretend you run a sports apparel store. Think of how you can be of genuine help to your customers. You should be creating posts like '2015's best five shoes for running', 'top 10 shredding songs', '3 up and coming Australian sports stars to watch'. We all scan content to pull out what is most useful as quickly as possible. If you structure your posts so that they are easy to scan, your audience will find them more useful. Lists make this easy.
2. Interview influencers. You should know the people who your audience look up to, aspire to be and are influenced by. Interview these people! Contact them via email and ask to interview them for your blog, explaining that you think your audience would love to hear their story/advice/opinions. Keep the list of interview questions short (i.e. five or so questions) as these people are busy - the shorter your list of questions the faster you'll get them back. Do your research. Don't ask questions that you can find the answers to online. Think of questions that will encourage these influencers to share emotions and real, untold insight. Once you've published the interview on your blog, send the influencer the link with an image that they can share on their social media, thereby directing their traffic to your site.
3. How-to's. Think about the daily challenges in your audience's lives. How can you help enlighten or motivate them? Once you have some ideas of topics, share your best work. You need to have an abundance mentality - rather than fearing that sharing your best work is going to lose you customers, understand that there is enough work out there and by sharing your knowledge, you're actually going to build your brand and your authority in your industry. Think about questions your current customers/clients ask you or challenges you see people coming up against in Facebook groups, forums or on LinkedIn. Be a useful player in these spaces and you'll start attracting more customers/clients your way.
Campaign marketing is fast fading (or should be for brands that haven't identified this). The reality is that brands are now always 'on' as social media means creates a 24 hour conversation - whether you like it or not. It's crucial for brand managers and marketers to understand their brand's personality and be able to communicate this across all touch points at all times. There's no longer the limit (or luxury, depending on your approach) of short spurts of marketing activity, followed by thinking up the next plan of attack. Start thinking of campaigns as key topics of engagement that evolve and play off each other rather than 'turn on, turn off' activities. Your brand's communications need to be constant and consistent. Create a plan for your content and remember that this plan can and really should be edited as you leverage talking-points in the news-cycle. Who does this well? Oreo constantly publishes fresh and genuinely funny content on its social media platforms (here are some examples!). Another is Netflix - who hasn't seen a 'Netflix and chill' meme? It even made it into Urban Dictionary.
Have a personality
The most engaging brands are those with personality, quirk and sass - just like Oreo and Netflix. They aren't trying to push brand messages or appear flawless. The know their audience and take a stand and/or have fun with them. The Queensland Police Service has the largest police Facebook page in the English-speaking world, with 660,000 followers. They are also arguably the world's wittiest police squad - and those two stats aren't a coincidence. Another approach is taken by Always. Its award-winning #LikeAGirl campaign advocates gender equality. It is emotion-driven and centres in on a real challenge in its audience's lives. In doing so, it connects to them in a way that advertising never could.
Know who is in control
The smartest brand managers and marketers understand that their audience control the conversation. Whilst you may own your brand assets and can try to lead the conversation, today's consumers can direct and shape the conversation and sentiment surrounding your brand through the immediacy and virality of social media. However, the best brands know how to turn these situations into positives - just like Woolies recently did.
Understand your role in your brand's conversation and you'll delight, entertain and engage your audience in a powerful way.