Brand continuity

Almost all of us struggle with navigating the two worlds of offline and online communities. As we gain more experience – often hard won – we begin to realize that the two are not nearly as dissimilar as we’d been led to believe. The basics still matter: authenticity, interactivity, engagement. If you offer an outstanding, highly differentiated experience offline and you do the same online, you’ll do well. If you don’t – in one or both – then you won’t.

Continuity of brand and experience matters. And the kicker is, it’s going to matter a lot more.

And…that’s really what this week’s OIOW is all about. There are lots of way to look at the continuity issue, this week we’ll take one way; later on, we’ll take some others.

A question we get asked a lot is: “but…how do I know where to invest?” The flippant answer of course, is everywhere – treat your online marketing as you seriously as you would your offline. That works great in a world of unlimited resources, but most of us have to arbitrage our marketing decisions: where we invest, and in who needs to capture the greatest amount of value for the dollars spent. And it’s always a tradeoff.

Since tangpen looks at marketing through the lens of social interactions and experiences, the way we try to answer the question is by looking at the levels of influence and engagement that groups have online and offline. These levels of influence and engagement go a long way to determining how successful your brand is going to be (again, online or off).

Here’s some of what we know…and much of this comes from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project report, “The social side of the internet” [link]:

  • People who are active online are almost 30% more likely to be a member of an offline group than those who aren’t. So what? Well, these are people who are involved, like being involved, are social catalysts for ideas, activities, and often change.
  • Those who are active on social media sites are the most heavily involved in groups (nearly 82% versus 77% of those who aren’t involved). So what? Social media sites distil and channel influence, excitement, and engagement. In the process they create movements. Not least of which, of customers.
  • Meaningful participation in an authentic environment online energizes the most powerful social agents to recruit, participate, and lead for and in groups of all sorts. So what? If people feel that their participation is useful and benefits others, and they feel that they are appreciated, they become more deeply committed to the success of the relationship.
  • Members of consumer groups are the most likely to make use of social media. So what? Well, users of social media sites are the most engaged in social groups, and these are the people who populate groups that matter to businesses. A lot.

In other words: If you have customers and prospects, both online and off (and almost everybody does), you get a bigger bang promoting and marketing to the online crowd, and in particular those who are socially engaged. You get greater engagement, more enthusiastic participation, and perhaps most importantly, a notable passion for recruiting new customers. This is true in absolute numbers and across all demographic groups.

Does this mean that you should dump all your other efforts and build a kick’n online experience for your customer group? No. But it does mean that you ignore a powerful and useful group of people – who would make very, very good customers – if you continue to believe that as long as you have a website or a Facebook page you’re covered.

It takes a lot more than a website (particularly one designed by your kid brother’s youngest daughter), and not necessarily lots of money. What it really takes is a commitment to meeting your customers and prospects where they are looking for you, and then engaging them. It’s folks wandering in off the street or linking with you on some online social media site that begins the relationship. You’ve got to play your part to nurture it.

Wherever “it” is taking place.