Commentary

If Your Message Isn't Socialized, Is It Heard?

Philosophers ask: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Recent research from Nielsen had me wondering the same thing about our content marketing and the social Web.

As social sites continue to dominate time consumption of online audiences, if your message isn’t socialized, does anyone hear it?

The question “What are we doing about social media?” is something that has, for some time, been echoing around the boardrooms and the C-level suites of our organizations. Nielsen also recently reported data suggesting that to be heard, to engage with the mainstream, a social media marketing strategy is no longer a luxury, but rather a business imperative.   

Nielsen notes that Americans are now spending more time on Facebook than on any other site –- and by some margin. In May 2011, American Internet users spent 53.5 billion minutes on Facebook. The next-most popular sites, Yahoo and Google, had less than half that number with 17.2 and 12.5 billion minutes, respectively.

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Many people attribute this growing trend to the surge of the “social Internet” -- which is largely affecting the way individuals consume content, using social media platforms as gateways to the Web. However, even when they are not on these sites, the influence of Twitter and Facebook is dominating individuas' browsing behavior, which is largely spent following links to content that their friends have liked or tweeted.     

This change represents a fundamental shift in the behavioral patterns of the online audience. They are now turning into “hunter gatherers” -- looking for your product, service or advice to consumers of pre-qualified, curated and recommended socialized content. Because the content has come from someone in their approved social circle, these visitors arrive pre-warmed, ready for your message, ready to be engaged, ready for conversation, and ultimately ready for conversion.  

Being where the consumer is has long been the marketing mantra, and both B2B and B2C audiences are on social media sites. With 80% of your audience on social media, it is critical that it be at the core of your organization’s marketing mix.

With this in mind, marketers need to extend their business strategies from being found to being there. True, we need to help those hunter-gatherers to find, share and curate the content, but in the social Web, we have to go beyond waiting for people to come -- we have to actively engage and target the audience.

The growth of social media is inextricably linked with mobility, as almost 40% of users access social media sites from their mobile phone. This transition from corporate sites and desktop computers, to social media sites and mobile phones create a multichannel marketing perfect storm.

While the online audience is looking for a seamless, consistent brand or customer-service experience as they move between these digital touchpoints, organizations tend to view these channels as niche specialties and treat them with siloed business practices, software tools, content repositories and user data. This approach needs to change and adapt to the new standards in content management.  

How we publish to the Web, mobile, email and social media channels like Twitter and Facebook are challenges we’ve been facing for a decade -- managing variants of content and delivering this in the correct format, relevant to the visitor.

Social media marketing strategies require us to tune our marketing skills and perhaps invest in new business tools, such as social media monitoring. These tools need to be firmly connected to our existing content publishing, analytics and customer-relationship processes. When done right, this integration empowers a message to break though the noise of the biggest content forest imaginable.

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