A new study cited today by Church of the Customer finds that 70 percent of people trust online product recommendations from friends and family.
That number seems low to me — but I bet that’s because our definition of “friend” is ever evolving and expanding.
To be blunt, social media has bastardized the meaning of friendship. We don’t trust ALL of the recommendations from our friends because we don’t know ALL of our friends. (Or know them well enough to trust their taste.)
But let’s dig in and differentiate between types of friend recommendations which is also expanding to see where the opportunity lies to further tap into this channel of trust.
You are looking for a new book. You ask me. I send you a link to a recent favorite. You buy the book. (Read!)
You log into Facebook (as if you’ve ever logged out). You see me post a quote from a book I’m reading. You buy that book. (Read!)
Now let’s consider another type of friend recommendation. One that has become expected in your online shopping experience and one more companies will embrace in the future.
You visit an online bookstore. You connect through Facebook. You see all of the books your “friends” have read or purchased. You buy the book you visited the store for and one other that your friend bought. (Read!)
These examples represent trusted recommendations from a friend or family member (hi mom!). And in all cases, you bought a book because you were influenced by a recommendation from a friend.
But what if you could integrate more deeply ambient and engineered? For example, what if you see ALL of my Tweets, Pins, Pheeds, Vines, Instagram’s, or Status Updates that relate to books to you in an elegant, timely way? So you never have to ask for a recommendation again or rely on me using the same online store and connecting through Facebook.
That sounds to me like an opportunity to give consumers more of what they want, when they want it.
Well, I’ll be… brands are seeking to build relationships with startups:
If anything, SXSW is emerging as a place where marketing and tech meet. Talk to any brand, and you’ll hear how they want to build closer relationships with startups.
With 90 million monthly active users, 40 million photos per day, and 8,500 likes per second, Instagram has now managed to attract 59% of the world’s top brands.
…We have continued to see strong audience growth for brands that adopted early, and a widening gap for those who have yet to create an account.
Smart Story Scouts moved to Instagram swiftly and it’s paying off BIG TIME for their brand.
Riding the Edge of Relevance is not something you do once and walk away; it is an entirely new approach to building a brand through storytelling in the distributed media landscape.
Doing so effectively requires both finding out where the story should be told and how best to tell it today — before your competitors get there tomorrow.
The person who finds out where the story should be told next is a Story Scout. They pioneer the landscape as medium hunters for your story.
Story Scouts are the curious person(s) most passionate about new, emerging platforms. Their core strength is understanding best the storytelling platform. They live their lives socially and are early adopters.
While their passion for tech motivates them, they are mindful about the target audience for the brand. Their research-based approach requires them to listen to the key influencers in the target audience to identify where to tell the story next. Once identified, they dig in to a platform to figure out how to authentically use its storytelling capabilities to achieve objectives.
Story Scouts are one part artist and the other part scientist and are an essential part of a storytelling team capable of riding the Edge of Relevance.
See you soon. Be well.
Instead of waiting for broad, mainstream adoption of a media platform, smart brands seeking to remain relevant and top-of-mind with their target audience will think and act with their audience — and move with them to emerging platforms as fast as reasonably possible.
Doing so will be recognized by the early adopters, leads to valuable earned media, and demonstrates to their audience that they “get it.”
I call this more nimble, thoughtful approach the “Edge of Relevance.”
Stop pouring marketing resources in saturated platforms. Invest in better understanding the media trends of your target audience. Do so by following the top bloggers and Twitterers in your audience and notice when they mention a new platform or start sharing content from a new source. Once you have established your presence in the community, reach out to the influencer who tipped you off and thank them. They will notice and will appreciate it.
Years ago, brands needing to reach savvy, stylish moms and women found the Edge of Relevance on Pinterest. Those brands that were there first and participating in the community gained the most value by reaching the early adopters in the target audience. They also became the example to other brands of how best to use the platform to market which provided organic press mentions.
Today, brands that want to reach the valuable, elusive target audience of teens would be on Pheed. Tomorrow, the Edge of Relevance will be elsewhere.
In today’s digital and social age, brands have direct access to customers and potential customers, and they should be investing time, energy and money into leveraging that access to increase awareness of their products, services and even their company cultures.
Actually, they need to make those investments to survive and thrive. Brands can’t depend upon impulse buys anymore because that breed of shopper is virtually extinct. A Deloitte study released last month found that nine out of 10 consumers know what they’re buying before they enter a store, and 83 percent narrow their choices to select brands in advance.
To get on the short list, companies must make good impressions early and often. They can take storytelling cues from the media to achieve that goal, practicing the art of what marketers call “brand journalism.”
I’m not talking about issuing press releases or producing advertorials. Most releases don’t even convince the press to write stories, let alone persuade customers to spend money. And the blatant sales pitches of advertorials are as likely to alienate consumers as to close a sale.
Brand journalism isn’t about news, either. Companies absolutely should build content around product launches and new services, but the stories (plurality is the key) need to go beyond reporting that Brand X launched Product Y. The content, preferably with a multimedia mix, needs to fascinate readers and viewers.
Boeing hit the mark with a feature story designed to showcase the braking reliability of one of its massive jets. As communications director Todd Blecher noted in a blog post about brand journalism, “That story had it all for our audiences: iconic airplane, an interesting test activity, and great visuals.” The result was more than 1.1 million video views and far broader reach with Boeing’s message than a traditional news release.
While the indirect goal of brand journalism may be making a sale or winning a client, the immediate aim is to educate and inform.
The Deloitte study shows that consumers are searching for meaningful information, with 75 percent saying they are smarter shoppers than a year ago. In addition to reading product reviews by both experts and consumers, shoppers turn directly to brands for information.
Journalist David Kiley lauded Ford as an example of a brand that excels at educating consumers through the “Ford Social” section of its website and other efforts. A year before introducing the Ford Fiesta into the U.S. market, the company built the case for that brand by giving away 100 cars and chronicling people’s experiences while driving them.
So how do other brands start doing what the Boeings and Fords of the corporate world are doing? Planning is the first step.
Every successful newsroom, publishing house and entertainment shop knows that good stories take forethought. Their teams consistently pick the right subjects, the right formats (text, audio, video), the right methods (feature, Q&A, humor, etc.), the right timing and the right promotional tools for every situation because they plan.
Brands must do the same if they want to be top of mind when consumers walk into a store or go online to make a purchase.
Lenovo, one of the largest global brands and the world’s No. 2 PC manufacturer, understands that. My consulting team, which includes a veteran journalist, worked with Lenovo to craft a storytelling strategy aimed at showcasing the quality, dependability and functionality of Lenovo products for consumers.
The company has great stories to tell, such as the role of Lenovo computers in space, but it hasn’t been telling them consistently and effectively. After an extensive research process, we helped Lenovo’s social media experts around the world start thinking like journalists. They now take editorial direction from a central team, brainstorm regularly online and offline, and produce content around a detailed calendar of events, product launches and more.
That kind of framework will bring focus to any company’s social media endeavors, and focus will inspire the kinds of stories that win the hearts of consumers.
Marketing has evolved and will continue to do so. Brands that want to continue to reach their business objectives will take lessons from those that are leading this change and deploy the appropriate resources to succeed.
[Ed. Note: I originally published this piece in 2012 at a blog which is no longer accessible.]
The social Web is constantly evolving, and new technologies regularly reshape the marketing landscape that brands must consider as they work to engage with consumers. The smartest brands and marketers should constantly scout emerging platforms to determine whether they could provide an edge of relevance with their target audience.
Pheed, a social media platform which Forbes is calling “The New Twitter,” is growing fast. In fact, it launched only in October and boasts “around a million” users. Growth is credited to teens, a valuable, elusive target audience for brands.
Let’s dig in…
BUILD BRAND WITH STORYTELLING, RICH CONTENT AND CONTENT CURATION
Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram emerged last year providing a way to tell our story through visual content creation and curation. Pheed continues this trend offering users a powerful, comprehensive storytelling platform.
On Pheed, you express yourself by creating or curating texts, photos, videos, audio tracks, voice-notes and live broadcasts. This integrated toolset provides rich storytelling capabilities that was previously distributed across many platforms. Further, it provides an opportunity to experiment with audio and live broadcasts.
Content moves extremely fast through the platform thanks to the “remix” feature which is similar to Twitter’s Retweet or Pinterest’s Repin. Like empowering “digital paperboys,” branded content could be shared with an entire network of supporters through a trusted voice.
A brand should develop a comprehensive content strategy that focuses on telling their story through the many different content options and include “remixing” content created by users who support their brand.
Here are a few interesting brands and people on Pheed: WWE, Vibe Magazine, Mike Tyson, Miley Ray Cyrus, Nick Bilton, Naomi Campbell, Jamie Foxx, and Paris Hilton. Oh, and then there’s me, who is still figuring it out.
PROTECT YOUR BRAND BY ACTIVELY PARTICIPATING
Brands help us express who we are so it is no surprise that users on Pheed are already posting content of the brands they care about. A search for Nike, Red Bull and Coca-Cola shows pictures of new #Nike shoes, cans of #RedBull with comments of how it “would give them wings,” and their love for #coke.
At a high-level, this represents the reality — the message of the brand is in the hands of the customers. But by not participating in the conversation and providing an “official” voice, it potentially risks its reputation. For example, there are hundreds of “channels” and thousands of pheeds for Nike:
My assumption after looking at the branded “channels” is that they are being managed by someone other than official Nike brand managers which should raise flags up in Beaverton. It even looks like someone is trying to monetize a faux Nike Skateboarding account.
The marketing battleground has evolved and will continue to do so. Pheed represents an emerging platform that is attracting a specific target audience and builds on key storytelling trends. At a time when everyone is a brand, and everyone wants our attention, the smartest brands and marketers will develop a nimble strategy to move quickly to secure valuable mindshare.
Ever since I met Ben Silbermann a few years ago at the Altitude Design Summit in Salt Lake City and he told me about his start-up, Pinterest, I’ve been collecting things I find that represent who I am and sharing them on my Pinboard. I love it.
Since the platform has gained a lot of recent attention and traction, the DAG team has released a Pinterest 101 tip sheet and presentation to help folks figure out how best to use the platform.