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Campaigns No Longer Matter: The Importance of Listening

At this year's Ad-Tech expo in San Francisco, one of the keynotes was given by Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur where he spoke about the concept around social media. No, he didn't say that advertisers and marketers should be on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or on blogs, but rather spoke about about the idea that is social media. The premise? That instead of focusing on one-off campaigns, create a long-term engagement program and listen to your customers. While they may serve you to a certain extent, Le Meur says that doing these ad hoc campaigns designed to generate more exposure (or impressions), is not the way the world works. Rather, he believes that it's about listening and working on building up the trust that may exist between your customers and your brand. In fact, this process isn't easy…and instead of campaigns that last only a few months, Le Meur says that through listening and engagement, this process could take years to achieve the objectives a company wants….but would far outweigh what companies could achieve with campaigns.

Ad-Tech SF 2010 - Loic Le Meur Keynote

Here are some highlights from Le Meur's keynote along with my comments on key points:

WHAT YOU WANT AS A BRAND IS TO BE KNOWN, TRUSTED AND REACH MILLIONS OF PEOPLE

To this end, you would not be able to achieve this with simply a “springtime sale”. Instead, always set your programs and tactics to focus on the long-term. With a campaign, it could go both ways, meaning that it could either succeed or fail. And with only a few months of actual execution, there's not really that much time for people to really get to bond with your brand. In fact, they're not really concerned with your brand, but rather the great deal or promotion that you're offering them — they want the SAVINGS. Without a campaign, you're going to work on helping to show that your brand is more human, engaging and cares about its customers. You'll work on getting your brand's name out there without any condition of a sale, discount, press release, crisis, etc. It will be pretty au natural. As a result of being a part of the community and listening to your customers, they'll also start to listen to what you have to say and trust your insights. Then who knows? It could potentially reach more people as word of your brand's interest becomes viral.

MORE AND MORE SITES REJECT OR RESTRAIN ADVERTISING

Years ago, companies that wanted to get people interested in their campaigns would have executed banner advertising or search engine marketing programs to get some sort of a feature on sites like the New York TimesWashington Post, CNN, etc. But these days, more sites, according to Le Meur, are finding that advertising is not what their customers want to see. So now brands will need to find some other way to get their name out there.

YOU NO LONGER HAVE CONTROL

One of the videos shown by Le Meur during his keynote was the highly viral and hilarious Hitler YouTube videos where he mentioned that soon after the news broke about the iPhone 4G being stolen & reported on tech blog Gizmodo, a new video sprung up parodying Hitler. These videos were created by the users and you no longer have any real say on what is produced. The Internet is a vast new frontier and you're never going to be able toretain the control you had as a company with traditional media. In fact, Le Meur said back in those days, there were few media sources for people to find information (TV, newspaper, radio, etc.). Companies were able to then create campaigns, repeat the message over and over and reach the masses, thereby getting more exposure/impressions. But in these days, how are you going to simply plaster your message everywhere expecting to get views without converting the audience into actual customers? The spray and pray tactic no longer works.

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS YOU HAVE

This is probably the big thing brands should be aware about, if not one of them: it's not about how many people you have following you on Twitter or that are friends with you on Facebook. In fact, you could have 1 million followers on social networks and that still wouldn't be better than your nearest competitor who might only have 5,000 followers. Why? Because it's the type of followers you have that matters. If I'm a phone manufacturer, I'm going to want to make sure that people who blog about my industry, journalists, and other phone enthusiasts are following me. It's all about the quality of your followers, NOT the quantity.

And please don't buy any followers. You just don't know who is on that list and you're only going to bolster the number of people following you on Twitter. Chances are that the people on this list do nothing for you and are unqualified leads. By slowly gaining followers through organic and natural means — listening, talking, providing quality content without sounding pushy, then you'll be able to amass far greater numbers of people truly interested in your product and brand that could potentially be a good community for you to have fight in your name.

YOU DON'T NEED A WEBSITE & NICE ADS ANYMORE

Long gone are the days when simply setting up a website and paying money on Google AdWords or on Yahoo! were enough. These days, you need to make sure that you have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and many others. Le Meur states that in 2010, social networks are the center of a customer's universe. To get there, you need to be a part of that system. Spend some time on social networks and learn how they work and what people are talking about on those sites. Social networks is like a giant expo hall in a convention center, or probably like a enormous mall where people are walking around and chatting with friends and followers in the food court. You are manning your brand's ‘kiosk” and you'll hear all types of conversation, some even about your brand. Your job isn't to push your wares, but rather listen and strike up a friendly conversation about what passerby's are talking about. It could be about the latest industry technology, sports, comedy, gossip, etc. The point is that people will not willingly come to your company's office…they'll be found at the mall — and that's your social network.

CREATE MORE TRUST

How does Le Meur suggest that you create more trust between your brand and community? Through any means necessary. Show that you're not a corporate hack or that your brand has a personality. Some suggestions from Le Meur include making home videos using a Flip camcorder of you talking about something relevant to your audience (it could go viral?), look ridiculous, do live Q&A sessions on UStream or on Formspring.me. Have open “office hours” where your community and customers can find you readily accessible to help out on their problems or just to chat. We want to see someone from a brand relaxed and just “one of us” — and I mean that in a genuine way, not someone trying to fake it like they were.

So what are some other tips Le Meur offers to brands looking to promote themselves on social networks?

  • Create content which isn't like a press release.
  • Work in real-time.
  • Support best initiatives and events your fans and influencers go to.
  • It's not a campaign. Be patient and participate regularly. It will take years to create a community.

Photo Credit: Kenneth Yeung

 

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