For so long, we thought that broadcast and print advertising was all there would be. But what was top-town media has given way to media that is more and more interactive. Once the Internet ushered in websites and web pages, we were racing through the portal of a brave new world. Things would never be the same.
Some of the most sweeping and profound changes revolve around consumer behavior and how we all consume and use media. With the advent of social media, consumers took over the driver’s seat; they’re not only participating but demand to be seen and heard. Consumer engagement, at all levels, is now a given.
The implications for businesses are many. It’s up to you now to listen, know your customers and their media habits and find new ways to reach out and stay connected with them. In other words, how do you keep them engaged?
It’s important to begin with understanding how your customers and prospects are using media. The Center for Social Media in the School of Communication at American University lists five fundamental ways consumer media habits continue to change. These are the five C’s, each of which has implications for business owners.
Choice. In the ‘old days,’ consumers waited for information to be delivered; the sender decided what was communicated. Now consumers actively seek out, access and compare content of their choosing in ways that include search, websites, opinions, news feeds and videos. What’s the implication for business? Make your content accessible across a variety of platforms and devices and also formatted and tagged in ways that your customers can easily find it.
Conversation. Sharing information, discussing issues and offering comments are continual processes. Consumers share their interests and mobilize around tags, including shared tags. New conversation tools are emerging all the time, including new electronic ones such as Seesmic News (now owned by HootSuite), that enables video conversation. Don’t limit yourself to a couple of tried-and-true platforms. Stay current with some new ones and make sure you use shared tags across them.
Curation. All content all the time means your customers are gathering, merging, reposting and commenting with all sorts of tools. Basically, everyone has an opinion about pretty much anything! And other consumers are looking to online contributors for authentic observations and opinions as part of their own decision-making process. As a business owner, you need to be monitoring online comments about your business and fostering them when appropriate. How you respond to negative comments can be even more effective, as others will take notice.
Creation. Content creation is literally at everyone’s fingertips, whether they’re creating from scratch or remixing existing content into new forms. In fact, user-generated content is of more interest to many than that which is professionally created, because it is viewed as more authentic. As a business, can you tap into this trend and harness it to help build your own brand? Of course you can, but it is important not to forget that user-generated content also has a downside, and you need to protect your brand, too.
Collaboration. As social media has brought people together, it has also enabled them to wear different hats in the creation and distribution of content in ways no one could have imagined. Consumers band together for everything from funding production to showcasing new products to rallying around a cause through petitions and letters. There are opportunities for business embedded in this evolving landscape. But, you may want to consider enlisting employees or outside resources in order to leverage them.
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