The digital channel, from Web sites to mobile applications to cross-platform social networks, is the future of marketing. In that channel, social media is changing the expectations of consumers. Consumers now demand more transparency from companies. They want more than just the one-way conversation of traditional advertising.
Consumers are no longer visitors to sites; they are active users of the Web. They expect to be driving the conversation. On social sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and on mobile devices through mobile Web sites and apps, consumers are determining what is being seen, what is being said, and how to say it. This is digital word-of-mouth marketing at its very best. As companies try to leverage social media to build their brands and drive traffic to their Web sites, they are faced with the challenges of building and maintaining interactive relationships that foster social trust with their audiences.
The key to growing these relationships and producing transparency is more than just direct corporate participation in the conversation. Companies have to empower users by giving them access to their brand message on every channel that consumers want to be active on.
The content that companies make available to the digital channel is the information that consumers are talking about and is the way that companies present themselves to the world. It is also be the foundation for the transparent relationships and social trust that companies are trying to build with their audiences.
Without good content made available to them rapidly and frequently, consumer conversation about companies will quickly find their own directions or, worse, consumers will not talk about the brand at all. Your target audience may not always find their way back to your Web site, but they still need to have your message put in their hands.
How do you deliver that information to these very social audiences? How do you ensure that they get it quickly and efficiently, so that your company does not miss any opportunities? The solution is already in place.
Touching All the Bases
The Web content management (WCM) platforms that manage Web sites across the online network are ideally suited to this task. WCM platforms are all about deploying content (whether it is video, audio, copy or images) on time and in response to the needs of your company, all while maintaining consistent messaging.
With social media now playing such a large role in marketing, your WCM should be able to push your message out to the social digital channel. The release of new content needs to become an event that is managed by the WCM solution and is an extension of what the way content is already being managed.
For example, WCMs manage the publishing of press releases on corporate Web sites every single day. These press releases, before they go live, will typically go through an approval chain that culminates in the hands of a person who has final responsibility for the content. Upon approving it, this person publishes the content. As soon as it goes live on the Web site, it is available to those who actively visit the site as well as to people who are actively searching for it.
With the social digital channel, a WCM has to do more than simply publish a press release. If the release is approved for the site, it should also be announced to the rest of the social audience to that they can start interacting with it.
When content is published, a WCM solution should also be set up so that it sends a tweet out with the headline of the press release and an abbreviated link. A summary of the release should be automatically posted to the Facebook groups that the company maintains. An announcement should be sent out via RSS and Web alerts to everyone who has subscribed. The content should be pushed to all mobile apps that are pertinent.
Furthermore, the WCM should notify your own employees that the press release is available and that they should start to distribute it to their own networks.
This instantaneous communication of content beyond your site promotes the transparency. While consumers may carry information forward in their own conversations and never come to your Web site, the content sent may serve to direct others back to your site, where intelligent use of your WCM can provide even more opportunities for the conversation to continue.
Building the Conversation
A WCM platform should manage more than just the content you put on your site; it must manage user-generated content as well, empowering the audience that does come to your site with a consumer-centric experience. Commenting and ratings will give then an opportunity to give direct feedback on your brand at your site. Forums and threaded discussions allow more in-depth participation both by your audience and your own employees, promoting a more immersive and personal relationship between the company and the consumer.
Experts within the company can post blogs on the corporate site (and announce via Twitter, Facebook and RSS that the new posts are available), and readers can comment on the posts and be notified when someone comments on their response.
Whether or not they come back is their choice. With the information in hand, your use of Web content management has empowered them to carry the conversation about your brand to others in their own network. The better the content you distribute, the more exposure your audience will give you. Because you are managing your brand’s content centrally, your messaging will be consistent across the digital channel and gives consumers the transparent relationship that they are eager to embrace.
Bill Rogers is CEO of Ektron.