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The connected consumer is at it again, disrupting established industries by forcing them to adapt to the digital revolution. Among the most impacted is public relations (PR), a close cousin of the marketing industry that is struggling to meet the demands of the modern era.
Traditionally, PR was mostly a matter of promoting your brand, product or service using traditional mass communication methods like press releases, newspapers, or magazines. And though PR has evolved to become more digital, more targeted, and more social, it has yet to fully clear the hurdles presented by today’s connected consumer.
Namely, most PR firms have yet to fully understand that the digital social sphere can no longer be accurately understood as confined to dedicated social media platforms. Rather, it constitutes the principles, perspectives, and practices of PR firms’ engagement across all types of digital platforms as seamlessly integrated with their audiences’ (connected consumers’) non-digital worlds.
Who is the connected consumer?
In order to know how to reach the connected consumer, PR experts must first understand them. Connected consumers are a study in paradox. They’re independent yet interconnected. Idealistic yet discriminating. Digitally native, yet highly hands on. God-like, yet all too human. They defy and transcend titles, channels, and behaviors, and must be understood as a global social phenomenon that requires an integrated approach.
In fact, to fully understand the connected consumer, it’s helpful to look to the root of the word “social”, which means “to be associated with others.”
The connected consumer is “associated with others” in ways that are much more closely linked to the concept of self-organizing systems and to the notion of the global commons than to social media use or even digital connectivity.
This means we must no longer think of social as just a platform or channel to “use” to reach connected consumers. Instead, we must understand social as the inescapable context of integral interconnectivity in which all marketing approaches take place and through which all strategy must be shaped. Essentially, social media is not simply one approach among many but rather the water in which we’re all swimming, or the very “air” that brands and connected consumers alike are breathing.
The data marketers and PR experts have on connected consumers is as paradoxical as the digital and social world they’re interacting in, so it’s crucial to understand their needs and pain points and to engage accordingly.
A Paradoxical Audience Requires a Paradoxical Approach
Due to the paradoxical nature of the connected consumer, it’s no longer sufficient to plug your brand or PR messaging into social platforms and call it a day. The connected consumer is looking for a much more thoughtful approach from the brands they interact with. So how can PR professionals develop a content approach that engages with connected consumers in a way they can appreciate?
Capitalize on the front-end gap by reaching connected consumers in more personalized ways, and capitalize on the back-end gap by offering them better ways to organize and curate information across product categories or partner brands. Don’t just “push” content to followers, help them “pull” customized content to themselves. This is a value-added service that puts even greater control in their hands to help them get exactly what they want on-demand.
Take advantage of opportunities to demonstrate authenticity, alignment, integrity, and social responsibility. But remember—don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk. Be careful not to piggyback on or co-opt social justice movements, implying that support of a brand or consumption of a product is tantamount to moral virtue.
Interactive displays, voice-activated service, and IoT applications allow shoppers to independently access high levels of support. By providing this extra touch of salesmanship and hospitality, you can create a shopping experience that makes connected consumers feel like they are being hosted, not sold to.
Get back to basics
Connected consumers are empowered but overwhelmed and the source of their power is also the source of their weakness. They want to be in the driver’s seat, but they need help navigating the massive amount of information they encounter on the way to their purchase. The best way to relieve their anxiety is by creating a simple, stress-free purchase process. Do this by streamlining online interfaces, offering real-time assistance via chat-bots or live agents, adopting a “try before you buy” model, and installing reassuring safeguards like free shipping and free returns. Embrace the reality that connected consumers’ satisfaction and loyalty depend as much on the quality and ease of their purchase journey as on the actual product or service that constitutes their final destination.
To learn more about how connected consumers are changing the digital PR landscape, and what you can do about it, download our full report, Marketing to Gods: The Definitive Guide to Reaching, Engaging, and Retaining the Modern, Empowered Consumer, at ZenMedia.com.
March 4, 2019 at 03:18PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs