- John Woodbridge
The term agoraphobia means “fear of the marketplace.” It derives from the Athenian Agora, the political, spiritual, commerce and cultural center of ancient Greece. The Agora, the center of a powerful civilization, overrun by disparate messages, throngs of people and merchandise, enough to spawn a new type of sensory overload. Sound familiar?
Well today’s modern Agora is now digital and full of words, videos, sounds and graphics, fueled by big brands and consumers alike, each sparring for your attention. But how can brands navigate or even be seen in this marketplace when consumers suffer from a mutated type of agoraphobia? Getting to the answer isn’t simple, but once you’re there, hindsight becomes 20/20.
Turn the Message
Let’s start with the basics of creating consistent, clear messages delivered seamlessly to consumers. These must empower them to learn, interact with and share. But don’t fool yourself, your message will not stand by itself. Brands can spend countless dimes and time crafting the perfect messages and even more money laying the infrastructure to host them. However, when all the work is finished and the final piece is in place, your message will spark action only when those with the most influence are on board to conquer your niche markets and conversations. And if they aren’t speaking your message, well your empire won’t be worth a damn.
According to HubSpot, 90% of online consumers trust recommendations from people they know and 71% of online consumers say recommendations from family and friends have influenced their purchasing decisions. Powerful stuff, but that’s just the beginning.
Take a look at how this translates in the ultimate persuasion arena: politics.
Think back to the presidential election. In this post, NPR cites a study about people’s likelihood to vote based on their friends voting. The study concludes that people who saw their friends had clicked and shared a button on Facebook that said “I Voted” were more likely to click the button themselves and then actually vote themselves. Evidence that people are substantially more likely to vote after they see their friends have.
Not only that, but the campaigns have gotten very smart about message amplification. Here’s a quote from the same NPR story:
“So every time you get a message on Facebook from the Obama or Romney campaigns, or every time you get a tweet from them, saying please like this message or please retweet this, what they’re doing is taking advantage of the fact that when you amplify a message from the campaign, it’s much more effective than the campaign sending out messages directly.”
What they’re essentially saying is that although you need a solid hub to store your messages, simply sending them out from there is not good enough. The messages need to be amplified by influencers and lead consumers back to the hub. Let the influencers in these niche communities do their job, brands just need to provide the content. So how do you do this?
A quick Facebook search for “Vote Yes” yields hundreds of results of micro-communities rallying around different issues and opinions. The same can be said for Twitter hashtags, online forums, specialized blogs and countless other ways people gather digitally to discuss current issues. Consumer products are no different. They’re created to solve a problem and fill a need. Using social listening tools like Crimson Hexagon and Mention give brands the power to engage users involved with these conversations, identify their influencers, insert their content and amplify their messages.
So we’ve identified what our message is, and where we want to deliver it, but now we need to decide what happens after it’s consumed. In other words, how will consumers engage with your content and where will it take them?
Let’s use retirement as an example. I see commercials all the time about saving for retirement but they don’t help me take any action and often don’t make me identify myself as someone who needs to be doing this in the first place. This is where the type of digital content you create works its magic.
If a friend asks me about planning for retirement, one of the more useless things I can do is explain to them why it’s important. That doesn’t help anyone and it doesn’t tell them anything they don’t already know. However, if I have a tool to help them take action and answer important questions they have like “when should I start?” and “how much should I be saving?” now we’re making progress. Even better, when this is a branded tool, it takes the conversation I was having with a friend, attaches it to an action and then facilitates the conversation into the hands of the brand, in this case someone like a financial advisor.
Facilitating content through influencers doesn’t stop at getting retweets, “likes,” and shares. This article on SEOMoz gives a perfect example of a niche market with a lot of skewed online conversation, but no channel leaders. The author says the street racing community is a niche market for tire companies and points out that while there’s a lot of buzz about street racing on the internet, there’s no dominating YouTube channel for videos, comparison charts of tires in forums or brand messaging to facilitate conversation. A perfect opportunity for a brand to step in and own the conversation.
When considering your messaging, content and delivery, focus on delicate balance between technological nirvana and the power of the message. Through each step of the process, ask yourself if you are shouting into the crowds of the Agora, or are you dividing and conquering with precision?