Online presence – an oxymoron. Look for the written word

Many marketers still suffer from the ‘I want a web presence’ syndrome. They believe that having presence as a website and by advertising in online they have done good to their marketing plans. Alas! Web 2.0 as internet marketers prefer to call it, has a mind of its own. Did I hear “Jabulani”?

Web 2.0 is a complex matrix, interconnecting web tools and thus a wonderful platform for a meaningful conversation. For many users, tools like Facebook or Twitter starts as a ‘fun thing’. But the number of serious users who use these tools to speak about brands, offerings and what can now be termed ‘word of the written word’ a.k.a ‘www’ as a substitute for ‘word of mouth’ is not a joke anymore.

An article in a recent prominent daily mentioned how scared Bollywood is about ‘twitter’. Because the success (or the failure) of many movies are decided by Twitter and not trade reports anymore.

Should this be the case, how should one treat the online space? My two cents:

The web is the most democratic place in the world. However it affects (and gets affected) by the ‘real’ or brick & mortar world!
The online world is very democratic experience. Users have the power to say what they want and the power to accept / reject what the other users are saying. A living example is Shashi Tharoor. What led him to be the most talked about junior ministers also led him to his fall from grace.

The same media which eulogized his tweeting habits helping a little girl in faraway Trivandrum get monetary support bashed him with front page news over a scandal which cost him his ministerial job.

Lessons: Response – real time. Affects you in the real world and can continue to chase you for a while.

I heard a recent incident when a friend of mine tweeted about an issue with his iPhone and Apple started ‘following’ his tweets. Within a couple of days, Apple sent him a direct message with a link to upgrade his software. Response was real time and you have a customer who speaks about the brand. Online and offline!

  1. There are no rules. The rules are made as you go along
    Ever watched The Matrix – the movie? Morpheus tells Neo, “I can only show you the door. You have to walk through it”. These tools are available for you to use and with good knowledge! It is up to the marketer to make the rules. Since the online world is the best democracy, one will have people on both sides opining about every step of your way. However, if it does good to the brand, the rules are right. If it leads to continuous discomfort, it means that there is an immediate need for tweaking.
  2. The response is real time. So better be prepared to respond in real time
    The online space is extremely transparent and puts you on the pedestal immediately. Every move on the web is noticed by millions of users and provides them with an opportunity to react or respond to it immediately. A prominent blogger wrote about his good experience with an online travel portal and how helpful they were offline. The travel company’s response (which was real time) and the mix (online and offline response) coordinated well saved a potential disaster leading to a great experience. Result: Happy Customer. Now, get on your feet!
  3. Be a child. Learn everyday
    The online space changes the field every day. If one doesn’t learn and learn at the speed at which the world teaches you, chances are, that you are being left behind. So if you are still thinking ‘blogging about your offerings’ would be a great way to reach out to millions, think again. Twitter and Facebook have taken over a while back? And if we think Twitter and Facebook are permanent, maybe we would be wrong again.
  4. Product life cycle is short
    A interbrand report last year listed the top brands in the world and there are just three brands under the category ‘Internet services’ in the top 50 viz., Google (7), Amazon (43), and eBay (46). It is mighty difficult for an internet services company to sustain the pace with which users move. Add to it the cultural and geographic differences and the task becomes even difficult. It is important to re-invent and re-invest continuously to be up the curve. Google is a live example of that. Very few realize that Google offers thousands of services for the internet. Being a search engine is just one business vertical for the brand.
  5. Be up the curve and ride the wave
    Easier said than done! It is important for identifying patterns on user movement from one service to another. When Facebook was launched not many realized how big it is going to be! But now we see that applications within Facebook like ‘Mafia Wars’ and ‘Farmville’ (sounds outdated now!) are growing in numbers with millions of people joining everyday and thousands sustaining their stay! Maybe observing these patterns provide for excellent opportunities. Stupid how much ever it may sound, I believe that this is a fantastic opportunity for farming companies to provide ‘tools & ideas’ for Farmville users. There are many individuals who have taken a fancy to organic farming as a hobby and produce their own crop for their consumption. Providing tips to them and ‘virtual equipment’ would help growing their brand with them, however small the returns are now!

Well, thinking of a product line for ‘Mafia Wars’? How about Reid & Taylor suitings and Set Wet Gels? The big baddie is gifted by the mentor with Suitings and Gel to make him look cool!

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