#one consumers can challenge companies in new ways using online and social media tools. Everyone has a community, and can be both influencer and influencee . The inherent strength and creativity of a community can empower consumers in ground-breaking ways. Consumers should embrace the potential that exists with mobile devices for companies to track their movement. Personal ‘checking in’ data will massively empower consumers in years to come.
#two companies that embrace this new consumer empowerment will gain the community’s respect. Authentically playing along with individuals and online communities enables companies to declare the genuine importance these connections bring. And it ridicules pre-ordained ideas of how a brand is meant to communicate. Co-creation community sites like RedesignMe enable companies to use new brand guardians in entertaining and potentially cheaper ways. Large and small companies should be more open to exploring these opportunities.
#three championing communities’ stories and maverick online behaviour results in positive, low-cost, quick-hit PR. Brands no longer tell stories. Stories are now told about brands. Companies need to re-align PR spend and direct it towards understanding online communities and, crucially, specific people that participate in them.
#four social media PR is better than word of mouth. Online community buzz reaches further quicker than any traditional notion of word of mouth. And a user comment online sticks around forever, unlike words lost in air. The way online communities interact, and their longevity, push the concept of word of mouth far beyond its capacity. We need to find a new term for this online buzz - one that describes how multiple forms of communication and UGC lifespan influence people. But for now ‘online buzz’ will have to do.
#five the individual is the brand and the brand is the individual. Brand is a big word, and there’s not enough space to start defining it here. Some of the things that ‘brand’ signifies to me are power, confidence and affirmation of belief. Through online and social media empowerment, these are things that an individual can now draw on. And the brands that show the human heart behind their corporate body are the ones that will be considered more personable and individual . And we’ll like them more for it.
#six marketing, PR and customer service departments need to be more joined-up. It’s too easy for companies like Giraffe, Virgin Trains and Marks and Spencer to decide that social media tools like Twitter serve one purpose only. Social media conversation topics are controlled by the consumer, so companies’ need to use them in multi-purpose ways. Sites like Twitter enable immediate interaction and connection with consumers, so must be considered with at least the same weight as other forms of communication like mail, phone and email.
#seven companies need to act more locally. Huge opportunities exist where social media meets the local space: everyone is always local and online communities are increasingly empowered. People are always in a physical local space - whether it’s where we live, work, play or travel - and our decisions as consumers are increasingly determined by online conversation. Companies should significantly improve their local strategies and understand more about why consumers make local decisions.
#eight not many companies put a value on consumer time. Technology is enabling us to be more ‘on’ than ever before, which means our ‘off’ and ‘on/off’ time is increasingly valuable. Companies that show they value consumer time - and not just consumer money - will have more of our attention. And we’re not just consumers; we’re customers. Most people are happy being unpaid brand advocates, whether through new forms of word of mouth or the clothes we wear. We feel close to certain companies - be they independent, local or global - meaning there are big win-win opportunities for companies to exploit.
#nine pret a manger’s £62 was probably their most effective PR spend of the year.
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