Digital technology and social media are completely changing the way we access information, pay our bills, take college courses and interact with each other. Organizations, especially their PR people, need to figure out how to use this New Media World to connect with their audiences.
In the early part of this decade, the Internet as we knew it from its inception started changing. This transformation is often titled Web 2.0, which has changed the way businesses and organizations communicate with current and potential customers. Instead of the information-based, static Web 1.0, the Internet now facilitates interactive information sharing and collaboration. Examples include social networking sites such as Facebook, video sharing sites such as YouTube, wikis such as Wikipedia, and blogs where an individual or company communicates and dialogues with readers.
SPEAK DIRECTLY TO CUSTOMERS
Now, organizations don’t have to rely on third-party influencers, such as the media, to endorse brands, events, products or issues. There’s no filtering through expensive advertising or the gatekeepers of the media. An organization can speak directly to customers and buyers. And that’s a good thing!
It’s important for us to learn how to leverage the potential of the Internet for large and small companies, non-profit organizations, brands and individuals. In this New Media World, you can reach niche buyers directly and inexpensively. (I recommend David Meerman Scott's book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, for more info on this.)
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff in their book “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies,” write that there is a “spontaneous movement of people using online tools to connect, take charge of their own experience, and get what they need—information, support, ideas, products and bargaining power—from each other.”
Today, people are getting what they need from each other instead of from companies, which can be a challenge for companies!
DON'T BE LEFT OUT OF THE CONVERSATION
Organizations must learn how to be a part of this groundswell, or they could be left out of the conversation with their audiences. Unhappy customers or employees might post negative videos on YouTube (remember the Dominoes employees from last spring who posted a video of themselves spitting in and contaminating the food they were making?) or customers might announce their displeasure with your organization’s products or services on Twitter or Facebook.
You must monitor and develop relationships with the audiences via Web 2.0. You can’t control what they say or do (which corporate bosses hate), but you can develop a relationship with them — and this effort at relationship should help your organization in the long run.
It is time (past time) to start thinking about facilitating conversation between people. So start listening and talking!