Something I’ve been thinking about recently, and talking to clients about, is the ability Web 2.0 and the idea of the social Web gives them (and us) the ability to track conversations about them and their industry.
It’s not that this sort of peer-to-peer chatter hasn’t happened before, or that companies haven’t been trying to generate buzz around them before – in fact many companies spend huge amounts of marketing dollars on companies such as Bzz Agent and Agent Wildfire to build up excitement – it’s the fact that every online conversation is indexed and is searchable.
When you write about the great experience you had with the cable guy or the awful food you were served at a top restaurant, your post will stand for the rest of time (or until you forget to pay your server bill), and will continue to appear in search results for that cable company or that restaurant.
So if I search for the restaurant, depending on your “google juice” the first experience I have of the restaurant will not be their fancy Web site or local listings, but your negative review. Your review will be in a language I can understand, relate to and empathize with. In Cluetrain terms, we will be having a very real (although one sided) conversation about the restaurant as part of its “marketing”.
Why is this relevant?
Think about how you get your information. When you hear about a band, do you go to the corner shop and buy a copy of Rolling Stone or do you go to YouTube and search for a live performance? When you hear about a new line of clothes, do you watch a fashion show on TV or do you google them?
Just the fact that Google has become a verb is proof positive that people no longer sit back and passively wait for information to come to them. If we want information, we go get it. We read what our peers write and make decisions based on that information more than the obtrusive marketing messages that are foisted upon us every day.
So, to recap. Consumers now get their information in a new way that doesn’t fit into the traditional media landscape and are finding that information in new ways – whether it’s Google, Facebook shares, RSS feeds or social bookmarking sites.
As a result, if you’re tasked with managing and monitoring your company’s reputation, you have to be online. You have to be in the thick of things, responding to criticism, gracefully accepting praise and, all the time, building up a bank of good will in the form of Google juice for the next person who searches for you to find.
Because marketing and PR isn’t about spraying messages at the media and hoping they drip down to the end user or consumer anymore. It’s about convincing people to engage with your brand and your product, one person at a time.
It’s about micro-marketing to the smallest possible niche in order to achieve the greatest possible affect.
As one prominent blogger would say, it’s about micropersuasion.