Monday, May 11, 2009

We have an audience in Papua New Guinea?

Who would have thought so many consumers would be interested in hearing our story? We would have never guessed that 80% of our engaged base are 32 year old males from that area of the country. Why would so many people leave that webpage? These are the voices of surprised companies upon reviewing a measurable online campaign. The response to most of these ideas and questions is pretty easy. Who cares?

The volume of information for any integrated campaign can be overwhelming. It can be paralyzing for an unprepared marketing team, leading to irrelevant questions or a confirmation biased approach to analyzing the results.

To avoid this and be better prepared here are three things to keep in mind:

1) The online audience is not always a reflection of your audience. This is a dangerous one for me to write, but let me explain. The people who react to your marketing or advertising online will be very specific to the action you instituted. In this case the word 'action' should not be mistaken with the word 'strategy'. For example, you may develop a funny viral video. As a result 300,000 people may view it - exciting, I know. Then you read the comments on YouTube that reflect disdain for the video or lower than enthusiastic love for your brand. Probably a less comforting experience. This doesn't mean that the consumer who buys your product feels the same way. In this case, your action (the viral video) may have appealled to a broader crowd. Your strategy was to reach 2,000 people (which you did) but the nature of your action allowed the online masses to take control. You can control the message all you like but you can't control who likes it.

2) Beware the vocal minority. When the agency I work for is first hired to listen online, the companies that we are working with are surprised about the level of negative/positive discussion. I often relate the online environment to any public meeting (if your in University think Student Union issues, if your have kids think PTA meeting, if you engage in public planning think 'public' feedback on the planning process). The people who are the loudest are usually those on the fringe. You rarely here someone speak up "I am adequately satisfied with this proposal, this is pretty good". You usually hear "that sucks" or "autograph me a copy so I can frame it". Some people will never like you. Some people love you (but aren't guaranteed to always love you - a post for another day).

The act of listening online alone is not enough. You require the skill to assess the risk and acknowledge the ability of when take action. Prop up the people who are your fans. Don't let them turn. Reach out to the haters, but do so knowing the probable outcome. It may be a case of showing your intent, rather than the outcome (don't mistaken this with selfishly assisting someone, that will get you burned). With this in mind, you can use the information found from 'listening' online very effectively, but do not mistaken it with the views of the majority. Most companies in Canada do not yet have the critical consumer mass to have their audience accurately reflected online. There will be people who will never speak up, but who will only watch. They are equally as important and should not be forgotten in the hype of social media.

3)Listen to the people you do engage. This may sound like a contradiction from the first two points. The intention with listening to the engaged people - the people who respond to your survey, buy your product online, engage in whatever action your online tactic is aiming to do - is to find out how to get more people like that. You're online audience may not always be a great reflection of the broader mass audience, but it is still an audience with a wallet. Identifying who reacts positively online, and tailoring integrated marketing efforts online to build this base of positive reactions in the ultimate key to a sustainable online strategy.