Spark a Conversation

Sep 08 -


While the concept of providing quality online content to your end user has not changed over the years, the way end users consume your online content has felt like a (r)evolving door that never seems to slow down. Some companies haven't even made it to the door, while others have sprinted in - going around and around - taking on every new online channel that is mentioned because they think it's the next big thing. 

Now, you do not need to be the first one in every time, and you do not need to take on every new channel that someone mentions to you "Hey! Have you heard of [XYZ] –it is like the coolest, newest social media app –it is totally going to take down Facebook –you better make sure you are on it". If I got a kitten for every time I heard that I would be the crazy cat lady everyone talks about. 

However, you do need to start evolving your online content communication from a traditional one way, top down approach to an engaging, two-way conversation while still maintaining quality content. For companies and brands –consumers have the last say and can - in an instant - create the biggest rain cloud over your parade by tweeting their worst customer service experience ever, rating your product the lowest possible grade, commenting on the biggest issues they have had, posting a picture or video of their awful experience, or even worse writing a blog about why you shouldn't buy a certain product. 

Let's start off with taking a look at where the conversation is:

Where is your audience? 

25% of smartphone owners can't recall when their phone wasn't close to them while 79% of smartphone owners have their smartphone next to them for all but two hours of their day. Now, you might be thinking that just because they have their phone next to them doesn't mean they are using it all that time. Well, not all the time, but pretty close. Americans spend an average of 34 hours per month using their smartphones –up 31% from last year (and an additional 27 hours on their PC). About 11 of those hours are being used for social networks and searching. Speaking of social networks, did you know that 180 million Facebook users only access their account via phone? That's right –they don't access it from their desktop or laptop –they access it only through their phone. So, next time you are ready to publish that new content you have been working on, you might want to start thinking about how that content is going to look across the multiple devices your end user is going to be viewing it on. 
It comes as no surprise that social media is the number one activity on the web with Facebook in the lead with 1.15 billion active users. But did you know that Google+ actually has the second largest active user base with 359 million, beating out Twitter by nearly 144 million active users? To put in perspective how addicted we are to social media, the United States on average spends 16 minutes (out of an hour) on social media networks. LinkedIn gets two new members every second, while YouTube reaches more adults ages 18 through 34 than any cable network. However, going back to one my original points, you do not need to be on every single online channel that is mentioned to you. Start with one or two and see how it goes, understand the time it takes your team to maintain these channels, and remember your end user can communicate back to you –so make sure you are ready when this happens. If you do want to be present on just about all online channels, make sure you have the right tool(s) in place to make this efficient and consistent. 
There are more than 1 billion YouTube visitors that watch over 6 billion hours of video on a monthly basis. It is predicted that video traffic will make up 55% of all internet traffic by 2016. As a marketer, finding new ways to catch the consumer's eye when they are flooded with daily emails or trying to engage them on your website when you have about 5 seconds to catch their attention. Video seems to be working –and working well. I will go into more video details and statistics in Part two of this blog. In the mean time, you might be thinking how does video spark a conversation if it's a one way communication out to your audience? Well, is it just a one way communication out to your audience?When the ALS challenge was first introduced as a truth or dare to social media users convincing them to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads and then nominating friends and family to take the challenge, I saw for the first time, a very successful marketing campaign that sparked a conversation via video. The challenge was really to raise awareness and donations for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. And boy was it successful! By August 29th, 2014, the ALS foundation received over 100 million in donations, which was a 3,500% increase of donations over the same time period last year for the foundation. Most importantly, millions of people are now aware of the disease, and were personally engaged and inspired just by simply sharing a video. So, it looks like video is here to stay, and people are getting very comfortable with the integration of video in their lives. You undeniably want to start transforming your next marketing campaign (or your existing campaigns) around engaging your consumers via video, if you haven't already.  

Don't underestimate your audience. 

I lost count on how many times I have heard "Oh that social media stuff is just for those teenie bops that are tweeting or twerking–whichever one they are doing these days, my audience base isn't on those channels, so I don't need to worry about that stuff". 
The truth is that the fastest growing demographics for Twitter is the 55 to 64 age group, which has grown 79% since 2012. For both Facebook and Google+, the fastest growing demographic has been 45 to 54 age group with 46% growth for Facebook and 56% growth for Google+ since 2012. And if you think the only social media outlet that fits the older generation is LinkedIn –keep in mind that LinkedIn has the lowest active users - with only 51% of members being active - when compared to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. 
Overall, 60% of people ages 50 to 64 and 72% of people ages 30 to 49 are actively using social media. So, if you think that your target audience isn't using any social media, or you are catering your conversations on these social media channels to the younger crowd, you need to re-evaluate your marketing strategy. 

Final Take Away 

As a digital marketer, I believe the number one challenge I face on a weekly basis is a long laundry list that constantly has three new items added when I finally remove one. Keeping up with weekly tasks that consist of working on the next campaign, researching and creating quality content, video, graphics, blogs, features, solutions, and building out the email campaign(s) and marketing automation system. At the same time, maintaining what we have already launched, digesting the email and website analytic, keeping content up to date, and providing enough leads for our sales team. If this isn't tricky enough, the realm of online marketing has shifted to an engaging, two-way conversation where the customer gets the last say. It is very imperative that you adopt your marketing strategy to provide, and be in, those conversations because they are going to happen with or without you. 

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