On 27 May, about 200 young marketing enthusiasts came together in Vienna for the Marketing Natives event that revolved around the trend of “connectivity” and its implications on companies and marketers. The conclusion? With a smartphone in their pocket, consumers are more powerful than ever.
The company-consumer relationship
“Corporate communication tends towards marketing and vice versa,” said Helmut Spudich, spokesperson for T-mobile, as he drew the audience’s attention to the increased dialogue with customers. Many companies have embraced the potential that social media offers in interacting with the target market. A witty tweet at the right moment can generate thousands of retweets and likes.
With great connectivity, however, comes great accountability. While social media marketing harbours new opportunities for businesses that know how to value this dialogue, networks like Facebook and Twitter give the consumer a channel to voice their opinions and publish their unofficial reviews. Thus, when Skeptical Joe is about to make a purchase decision, whom will he trust? A one-sided advertising campaign or his Facebook friends? The implication is that businesses have no choice but to shift their priorities towards making the customers happy, as they are the ones spreading their message.
Nevertheless, the influence of consumers is not constrained to reviews. wikifolio founder Andreas Kern created a social trading platform where traders can publish their portfolios, thus providing an alternative to bank advisory services. The young entrepreneur demonstrated that, in this way, consumers could even bypass companies altogether. “Through platforms such as wikifolio the consumer is independent of businesses and thus more powerful,” said Kern.
In this era of connectivity, what must a business do to maintain a good relationship with its customers? Considering the increasing influence of the opinion of the common consumer, it seems almost necessary for businesses to treat their customer and overall media relations with the same degree of importance. Because at the end of the day, social media are only part of a (much) bigger communication strategy.
The company-media-consumer relationship
About a month ago, inventures.eu’s Ondrej Gandel, Alena Schmuck and Mina Nacheva underlined some of the basic do’s and don’t’s that startups should be aware of when interacting with the media at a workshop at HUB Vienna, the main learnings of which can be found in this article. While it is undeniable that journalists enjoy greater credibility than corporates and their words have the power to influence others, the opinion of the common consumer is gaining increasing traction and there is value to be gained from comparing the two.
As we explained in “How to own your media relations and your story”, the first step in making a connection with the media is understanding the needs and priorities of journalists. Although their needs are different, the same is true for dealing with consumers. Focusing on what they want is paramount. Just like when dealing with the media, transparency is key and information about the business must be easily accessible. What is more, the audience likes an interesting story, people they can relate to, enthusiasm and even a bit of intrigue – in a right balance.
In an environment where every voice is heard, transparency is no longer just an option for businesses. It becomes a vital trait imposed by the many customers who hold companies accountable for their actions and statements. Whether building a dialogue with consumers and/or a relationship with the media asthe channel to the general public, one type of corporate communication is becoming increasingly valued: an honest and consistent message.
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