Every day it seems I’m interacting with senior business and communications executives who have embraced the myriad opportunities flowing from the growth of social media and its golden child, content marketing.
The positive thing is that this acceptance of, and enthusiasm for, the changes brought on by the emergence of an ever-evolving new media landscape is palpable and infectious.
In many cases it’s not just about the technology, but more about what people are doing with the social media tools and the changes in corporate behaviour required to ensure their respective organisations are relevant to, and in-sync with, an increasingly social and connected marketplace.
The executives I’m referring to range from CEOs and senior managers of fast-growth companies through to heads of communications departments of major organisations. I either work with them directly (in an advisory capacity) or deal with them at business or marketing events, or via social mediums such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
Their wide-eyed (but pragmatic) enthusiasm gladdens my heart. These people are eager not only to learn but also to put into practice the bumper harvest of ideas cascading from a democratised and hyper-connected marketplace that is increasingly being driven by the empowered many, not the privileged few.
The thing is, these executives understand better than most that social media is not just about Twitter and Facebook (although in many instances, and when used correctly, these platforms can be incredibly powerful).
They are embracing the fact that today, companies need to be open, transparent, informal, conversational and relevant – they need to add value to the community by creating content that inspires, informs, educates, empowers and/or entertains consumers, content that matches customers’ needs versus always being in interruptive selling mode.
These forward-thinking executives understand that marketing today – indeed, the whole notion of doing business – is predicated on the fact it’s not about them anymore, as it has been in the past, but what’s in it for their customers and stakeholders.
How can they, as custodians of their brand, add value to the marketplace? How can they use social media and new technologies to contribute positively to the lives of the people who matter the most to the success of their business (or their cause or issue if they’re a non-profit organisation)?
But a definite flipside remains – organisations that give every sign they’re refusing to adapt to the obvious changes occurring in the marketplace. You see it every day – companies missing out on massive opportunities to add value to the community, to use content and social media to be interesting, relevant and helpful to customers, influencers and stakeholders.
Let me be clear: when I talk about using new media to connect with the marketplace, I mean going deeper than just having a presence on Facebook and Twitter. That’s the easy stuff. Although, amazingly, according to a report half of the ‘big end of town’ in Australia still isn’t on any social media platform.
What sort of opportunities are we talking about? How can companies take full advantage of social media and online publishing tools to reinvent the way they communicate with the marketplace and make themselves more relevant to customers?
Check out some of the things progressive companies in the US are doing – yes, they’re proficient with Twitter and Facebook, that’s a given today – but look at how they’re going about their respective businesses. Take notice of the connection they have with consumers, and the effort they take in building a community of fans and supporters of their brand and what it is they do (and stand for).
- HubSpot Baking social into everything it does, a truly social business.
- American Express Champion of small business (look at the brand’s ‘Shop Small’ initiative).
- Altimeter Group Challenging the long-held notion of a professional services firm ‘giving away free IP’.
- King Arthur Flour How a commodity business built a super-engaged community.
- Pottery Barn Attracting fans by sharing inspiring ideas.
- Mint.com Helping customers by providing useful advice.
- Firebrand Talent Thought leadership in the digital/marketing recruitment space (locally based).
These companies represent the new breed. They’re ‘connected brands’ that are using social media and online publishing platforms to deepen the relationship they have with the marketplace (and broader community generally).
And in doing so, they’re setting themselves up to succeed in a world that is evolving by the day.