In this world of social media and an ever growing set of communication tools, it's easy to miss the big picture. My partner in Brazil Peralta has written a wonderful story that brings all the pieces together. Enjoy.
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by Alexandre Peralta, CEO of StrawberryFrog Brazil.
History goes back a long way. But it is still repeating itself, in other ways, with other people. (See the WSJ today).
I was on Twitter for professional interest (anybody who wants to talk to the new consumer these days must really get to know every possible tool that may be employed for this purpose). Soon after I registered, a blank space, 140 characters long, beckoned me irresistibly to post my first tweet (that's what posts on Twitter are called). My watch informed me that I only had 5 spare minutes before I had to leave for a meeting. The first thing that came to mind was "We are hiring graduated journalist. Contact Patricia: 55 11 3642-9300". We actually needed a person of this description and Patricia, the agency's Planning VP, was in charge of finding someone to fill this position. So, I decided to help her out.
In the taxi, coincidentally together with Patricia, only about 5 or 10 minutes later, on our way to the meeting, she passed me her mobile phone and said, "Have you seen this?" On the screen of her mobile phone there was a press release from “Bluebus”, a local on-line advertising news website: "Peralta says through Twitter that StrawberryFrog Brazil is hiring a recently graduated journalist and requests applicants to call Patricia on 3642-9300". Before I could say anything, my own mobile rang. It was Paula, our assistant: "I don't know what you've done, but the phones here in the agency are ringing off the hook with people asking about a vacancy for a journalist".
It is important to emphasize: all this happened literally 5 or 10 minutes after I sent out that tweet.
We received more than 500 CVs from people interested in the vacancy, all resulting from that single tweet. That was my introduction to Twitter, and since then I have been an assiduous user, not just for professional purposes, but also as a regular person.
One of the best things about Twitter is its great potential for making a message go viral and the way you can use it both as a communications tool and as a means of self-expression; but another great thing doubtlessly is, as you start to follow people and institutions, you can create a customized page perpetually at your service with the subjects that most interest you.
Right at this moment, for example, as I am writing this article, I have tweets from CNET, Veja magazine, HSM, Ana Clara Costa, CNN, Jornal Nacional, Sally Hogshead, BBC News, Time, Trend Hunter, BBC News, Media Week, NY Times, MoMa and my father, all mixed together on the same page.
And that has become part of my daily routine. It doesn't matter whether you are in a taxi, in the office, in a restaurant waiting for your meal or finishing up a meeting, the subjects and the people that interest you will be there, waiting for you in the palm of your hand - oh, and this is very important: having Twitter on your mobile device changes the whole experience - for the better.
I often see people trying to compare Twitter with Facebook, stating their preferences for one or the other, but its kind of like trying to compare a banana with an orange.
Facebook has its status area (“What’s on your mind?”) that, like a tweet, is also there for you to post a short message; however, there are a series of other resources, such as photo album storage, applications to remind you about friends' birthdays, movie and pop star fan clubs, and several others, appropriate to a more personal use of the service.
Twitter, on the other hand, is less about "what I am doing" and more about "what I have to say". It is information. Generally, among the 140 characters of a tweet, you find a link that will take the recipient to a website or a blog that complements the information.
In fact, there is another curious phenomenon that also demonstrates the power of Twitter: in the beginning, it was usually used to generate traffic to blogs; today, however, it appears that this sequence of importance has been reversed. Twitter has become the main channel and blogs are now the supporting service - given the restriction to 140 characters, blogs have often become just an address to host some additional lines about the subject in question.
But the most important point about this whole discussion is that today people are surrounded by a lot of tools to help them express what interests them - and, regarding our profession, the social element of marketing is a very important conductor.
What passes from one person to another by "word-of-mouth", according to surveys, is generally about 5 to 10 times more efficient than any other form of marketing.
C2C is the new B2C. In other words, if before we were used to getting results with a top-down kind of communication model ("business to consumers"), welcome now to the modern world where, to get the result, you need to have the consumer spreading your message to other consumers ("consumer to consumers").
When Burger King said on Facebook "Ditch 10 Facebook friends and get a free Whopper", where the deleted friends got a message saying they had been traded for a Whooper, it was getting the consumers themselves to spread the message that "Whopper is incredible" to other consumers, all for only the cost of a hamburger.
Amazon was the pioneer in creating tools capable of making consumers share messages with other consumers through their “Share The Love” setup. If you have ever bought a book on Amazon, then you've had this experience: after you pay, they ask you if you know anybody that may be interested in buying a copy of the book you have just bought. What do you get out of it? Ten percent in credits. What does your friend get out of it? A ten percent discount if he or she buys the book within a week. In other words, he or she will not be upset with you for having received this e-mail. Furthermore: there is a context for this recommendation that makes it non-invasive, which is the content of the book itself.
Andreas Weigend, former Chief Scientist at Amazon, calls this the “Social Data Revolution”.
“Customers who bought this item also bought...”. Customers very often don't know what they want. When they come across reviews from other customers, they discover what they want and they make a decision. They trust the comments of other customers more than marketing messages.
Rather than books and other things that you can buy there, Amazon offers something much more important: to help the customer in his or her decision-making process. This is the core business of the enterprise.
This "Social Data Revolution" has also brought on other opportunities, like using the internet not just for selling products, by also for providing customer feedbacks to enterprises.
Visit a website called Flatseats.com. The website features an evaluation of the executive- and first-class seats on several airlines, created from comments posted by passengers that flew on them. Consumers can vote for the best companies - and they really do vote.
The social network is an environment where, if I love a product, I am going to want to tell my friends, I am going to want to share this information through a post, a tweet or a link.
Having others talk about you is always much stronger than you talking about yourself. The best media that you can have nowadays is people.
In his book “Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the importance of identifying the "influencers", who are necessary for spreading all and every type of message. Influencers are nothing more than people who can reach everybody else for free. This changes a little the way we used to think when we put together our plans: instead of how many people we are going to reach, today its more important to ask whom are we going to reach?
Influencers can be activists, as long as you give them content. For a message to grow and spread from a simple spark, it needs to represent something larger.
Talking specifically about marketing, consumers don't want to buy brands anymore; they want to buy the causes that brands represent.
Brands that want to have greater and deeper meaning in the lives of people need to have a cause; products that have a meaning go beyond their product category, they need to represent a struggle.
If you are a company like Quaker, in Mexico, you need to say that you have a product that improves people's health, and you can't do that simply by presenting the promise of the product. Especially because, how many products of the same category, or so many others, say that they improve people's health? No, the promise of a product needs to ride the wave of a greater cause. What if, instead of saying "Improve your health", we say "Arrange a meeting with someone you love 20 years from now"? And what if we make on-line tools available to enable people to make their invitations and get these invitations to their intended targets?
However, it is clear that enterprises can only defend causes which have some relevance to them. Because this is also the age of "Radical Transparency", a term forged by the psychologist and best-selling author of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman. The name of the game, in the current age, is legitimacy. Consumers value authenticity and reject mere marketing strategies and whatever is not part of the daily activities and the values of the company. Having sustainability in your ads and not having it in your actions, or the way you relate to the entire chain of production, has a name - its called "greenwashing".
In the age of "Radical Transparency", there's no point in trying to hide. The consumer can find out everything and anything about your company. All you have to do is type a few words into Google. Or visit a few websites.
Want to know which enterprises are committed to the solving the global warming issue? Climate Counts.org. Want to know about product safety, toxicity and sustainability? GoodGuide.com. Greenpeace has an on-line Consumer's Guide, which talks about the use of transgenic components in food.
It may not even be possible anymore to keep your industrial formulas or the ingredients of your products a secret from consumers. The Hannaford supermarket chain in Maine, for example, gives grades to its products in the food sector, based on nutritional evaluations carried out by the Yale and Dartmouth universities and these grades later feature on the prices labels on store shelves.
Accordingly, with the necessary tools offered by the social network in hand, the consumer has earned the opportunity not just to take better purchasing decisions, to help friends and other consumers to take better purchasing decisions, to spread messages, to be the influencer and the media, but also and, especially, to decide which enterprises will be part of our lives today and in the future.