Major brands are finding it ever more difficult to effectively reach their target audience. Mass media can do some of the work, but as we become a ever more digital and mobile culture, we also become more cynical of ‘advertising’ and want to be in control of our purchasing decisions.
Enter social media, which (ironically) over the past few years has quickly become mass media, where large corporations are buying on-line ads to target a large audience or even to refine the target to be certain they are getting to their customer.
So is it working? Are big brands reaching their audience through traditional media and digital media? Maybe the question is what is the best way to speak with your target audience in todays landscape, regardless of the media used? How do you motivate someone to change a behavior, to believe in a service, to buy your product, to think positively of your organization?
The answer is direct personal contact. Yes, actually one individual or small group who is valued in a community to share the word about a product or service. I am not talking just about an international on-line community (facebook)- though it can be, I am also speaking about a real community – as in a neighborhood often partnered with an on-line community.
I call it Local Social. It is more authentic and builds a real-world experience. A relevant environment where each and everyone is part of the discussion. It is really what drives word-of-mouth marketing and builds effective crowd-sourcing and personal conversation. But how does a national or international corporation reach their target market in this environment?
Answer: Not the way they have been. They need to adapt new techniques in the local social space. Engage community advocates for their brand. Brand evangelizers in a given market can be the difference in success or failure of an awareness campaign. Those more savvy, can sniff out an ad vs a discussion from miles away. So be careful or they will turn on you!
I know very well the importance of local social because of a community effort I have co-founded in Los Angeles. We have created a family of local social networks that continue to grow organically from community member involvement. You can find more about what we are doing at http://openneighborhoods.net/ As a creative marketing consultant, I am also involved with brands and organizations that are in development of similar awareness campaigns to engage their community. I see this being a serious trend in effective marketing as we move forward in the digital space. Not an old concept, but rather the same idea in a new era.
Pete’s team over at Mashable just posted a great story about the general concept and it discusses it in terms of a “community manager”.
As the world of dominant brands becomes more fragmented, established companies and startups are hiring community managers to cultivate an engaged community in a digital world where customers’ experiences with the product is amplified through social media, whether good or bad. And it’s not just the experience that users value; the relationships and connections they are able to make with companies and fellow consumers are just as important.