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The Power and Growth of Microblogs and Activist websites

28.09.2009


There has been a tremendous amount in the press about Twitter and microblogs. Add to this the massive growth in virtual networking and it is clear that web technology is changing the way customers access and use information before buying. Microblogs, input from friends and activist websites are growing rapidly in popularity and influence.
So what is all the fuss about?
Microblogs are an incredible tool for individuals originally using word of mouth (WOM). We all know how powerful WOM can be. We al know the principle: customers who had good experience will positively influence 2 or 3 people, but those with a bad experience will negatively influence 10 people.
Microblogs open up a massive audience. Word Of Mouth has just eaten a decade’s supply of steroids. Microblogs can be massive amplifiers of an individual’s views. Positive and negative examples are everywhere. For those of you wanting to know how impactful a blog can be and how it can develop just take a look at www.dellhell.com. It started out as a disgruntled Dell reseller complaining of bad service and reaching a ready audience of Dell owners.
So what do we do in our own companies about this change?
Firstly we must understand how customers get and use information before they buy. It is no longer enough to consider marketing communications as a one way street which you control. The rapid rise of the web makes it easy for people to check you and your offers out on formal and informal sites and microblogs... and indeed pass comment themselves.
But the opportunities from web technology and virtual networking go much further than the buying process. The web and blogs provide a great opportunity to communicate more effectively with interested groups to develop forums for user groups, brand advocates and ideas generators for your business.
A couple of positive examples:
Around 1996 Ford Motor Company used the (then) low speed web to email a selected group of customers to get direct feedback from the front line on how their vehicles could be improved. In 1996 this was advanced stuff – today it is common place. Bringing this up to date Ford have moved on using Twitter as another means of keeping in touch: take a look at their corporate twitter account http://twitter.com/FordCustService.
In 2007 Cisco launched their I-Prize, a global competition designed to build a new business around a new innovative idea based in their area of expertise – internet technology. Anyone could enter. Thousands of people with relevant ideas signed up. Cisco had accessed a whole new global tribe of People Like Us (PLUs) - smart innovators globally who could help them grow. Cisco sifted through the thousands of ideas and selected the (few) most appropriate for detailed analysis and ultimately selection of the winning entry.
So what does this mean for marketing communications?
Companies marketing communications used to focus on selling. This is moving to telling (providing data and useful information) and to conversing; using web technology to help us understand and learn more from our customers. It’s a great two way street where information needs to be engaging, educational and entertaining to stand out from the crowd.
So all of us need to take blogging seriously. Take a careful look at how you communicate with your customers and prospects and how they would like to communicate with you. Use technology to make it easier for people to find facts and give feedback, to enable you to build networked groups that actively engage with your company.