A group of interior decorating enthusiasts gathers in a friend’s home to chat about decorating ideas for the upcoming Halloween holidays. They’re asking questions, sharing experiences, what they’ve seen in magazines, television shows and other homes. They’re seated comfortably on sofas and plush cushions sipping tea, enjoying sparkling wine and nibbling on horderves. There is a natural flow to the conversation and the inspiring thoughts evoke a feeling of closeness and deepening of their passion.
Now imagine an advertiser barging through the door armed with offers, coupons, humorous acts and banners showcasing their latest items.
For decades, advertisers have subjected people not interested in being advertised to or being interrupted to an experience that is nothing short of abusive and disrespectful. The highly centralized media channels have been the primary cause of this dreadful experience where a few ‘media moguls’ have controlled messaging to the masses.
This dynamic is rapidly breaking, as the population continues to shift online gravitating towards the social web to form and deepen human connections around shared interests. Advertisers have started experimenting in various ways to reach these highly engaged audiences. It’s the holy grail of advertising that requires a very delicate approach.
The way to reach these audiences is simple. Be human.
Getting back to basics and drawing on one’s real life experience interacting with fellow human beings is how brands are starting to behave and formulating their approach. Joining the conversation in a respectful way and offering something of value is how people are more motivated to form relationships with brands. Leave your sales and marketing spiel at home and start out by listening, learning and bringing to the table what people will find valuable.
Advertisers must transform their messaging from selling to informing, entertaining, inspiring or educating. This approach earns the advertiser attention, loyalty that permission to build new and ongoing valuable relationships. It’s no longer about investing the lion’s share of the billions of dollars into clever, beautiful and expensive commercials and advertisements. The guardians of these budgets need to delve into the hearts of their brand, business or organization and repackage the wealth of value that has been built over the life of that entity into relevant content and experiences that can be shared and repurposed to an engaged audience of people.
Advertising channels, as we know them today – television, billboards, newspapers and magazines, radio and the like, are becoming highly decentralized as a result of the social web. The power is shifting from the Rupert Murdock’s of the world to Melissa – a stay at home mom of three in the Midwest who reaches and influences 5,000 other moms through her online community focused on parenting. What is astounding is there are 10 million people like Melissa on the social web today who have dedicated their time to forming and building communities around their passions and interests engaging people the ‘real’ way. The Melissa’s of this world are using platforms like blogger, tumblr, wordpress, facebook, twitter, pinterest and instagram to reach their followers, fans, readers and members. And their reach is growing exponentially – sometimes 300% over 12 months.
Community influencers – the people who lead engaged groups of people around an interest topic are extremely powerful and effective in getting attention and inspiring their audience to take action. For example, advertisers who are investing into traditional adnetworks with sophisticated targeting and reach methods are achieving at best 0.05% click through rates, and more recently with ‘sponsored stories’ a 0.1% click through rate. Brands activating community influencers and inviting the leaders to share their stories and content are achieving 2%+ click through rates with even higher conversion rates of 10%+ once the person has visited their site
Interest communities hold the key to how advertisers will reach and engage with the masses through the social web. Syndicating 100’s or 1,000’s of interest communities feasibly replaces one major channel and the experience is far more dynamic and effective for both the advertiser and the people receiving the story. The ability for advertisers to reach these communities and inspire them to share their stories and content means the advertiser benefits from an on-going presence – not disappearing when the campaign is over or the budget has reached it’s limit. These stories continue to live within countless communities, continue to be shared and positively impact SEO and on-going exposure.
People who have influence make things happen – they change the world – one story at a time.