What does it take to survive and thrive in this new social media revolution? How relevant is it in Zimbabwe, where do we start, what do we do, what’s really changed? These are some of the questions I’m asked by businesses large and small locally. Oh and of course “What is social media anyway?”
Lets start with that last one
Social media is quite simply, media that’s social. The very opposite of the one way broadcast communication you’re used to seeing in the Herald or DailyNews that’s sold on the street. It’s interactive media. It’s the tools and methods by which people can talk back to the people talking to them. Social media is a communication platforms and content that allow people to have conversations. It’s the difference between giving a speech, and having a group discussion.
On Facebook, for example, I can talk back to you. From right here in Harare,
Zimbabwe, i can add my perspective to a discussion that was started in another part of the country or world. I can agree, disagree and i can very easily pass on your message to my circle of friends and someone else can pass it on from there – but only if i want to, only when i want to. It’s word of mouth on steroids, and it’s shifted the power away from companies and into the hands of the people. It’s turned marketing upside down.
With me so far?
You see, marketers for a long time were a cross between dictators and annoying little mosquitoes, constantly commanding and interrupting our way into profits.
We could simply buy media space, and interrupt someone looking for interesting stories in the newspaper or watching a program on TV with “Buy Buy Buy, Hurry While Stocks Last!!”
Some were irritated by the interruption, but it was worth it, to get that 0.001% to maybe buy. Problem is, people got used to it, then they got really good at ignoring interruptions – which meant companies had to buy bigger spaces and come up with crazier and more creative adverts, making marketing more and more expensive, crazy and even sexy. Advertising agencies loved it, everybody was still making money!
But then everything changed…blame technology.
All of a sudden Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google Plus, blogging…and more started popping up. It used to be that only high budget and highly trained agencies could create pictures and videos and interesting content – now everyone can do it on his phone. Used to be that only large media houses and publishers could distribute content to inform and entertain the masses – now everyone can do it on Facebook…and for free!
And now, on social media, without great content (popular tv shows or great newspaper stories) to interrupt, companies just don’t know how be relevant in this new world. They’re seeing that in a world where the market has all the
power, they will have to influence, not dictate, they’ll have to become welcome guests, not interruptions.
Turn your marketing and business model upside down!
Right now, you sell ‘product X’ – let’s say car insurance. Well imagine for a moment that you were in the publishing business. You got paid not for the sales of car insurance, but for producing high quality content relevant to people who
might be interested in buying product insurance.
What sort of content could you create?
Articles, interviews, stories, documentaries – and so on right? And if you did a good job at it, then people interested in ‘car insurance’ would come to regards you as the most trusted adviser on where and how to buy it and you would attract a large number of such people in that market. Oh and if you ‘happened’ to start selling car insurance directly yourself, then you would quite naturally be regarded as the most trusted and reliable source to buy from. That’s how a
brand is built, it’s how leadership and good marketing happens. It’s also the way that the fastest growing and most powerful brands in the world are using social media.
Now this is sometimes easier for small businesses, who don’t have the money to go on trying to interrupt their market anyway, but for large companies it’s quite a challenge.
Thinking like a publisher is a major shift — operationally, tactically and culturally. I’m starting to see more companies become aware of the need to
change, even locally. They are just struggling to learn a language in which “buy, buy buy” is not the their everyday language and this is how you need to think.
Turn your thinking upside down for a second. Understand that you’re in the business of creating content. Content that would ordinarily be good enough to sell, if that was your model. Content that is valuable, actionable and sharable by the people who read it. Content that makes people say “wow, only an expert in car insurance could have taught me that, i trust these guys”.