I saw the graphic below in a Facebook post the other day. Take a look at the image below and ask yourself, “Do I relate to this?”
To be sure, I “identified” with the upper photo. But then it hit me: I actually live more like the lower photo. As I thought more, I realized both photos are the same in the following ways:
What is really more significant is the comment written across the combined photos: it implies a values judgement based on generational differences in what it means to be “connected.” It’s a mistake that I see a lot, and it matters from a business perspective.
To be sure, people of various demographic groupings do in fact use social technology in different ways, but equally, the use of social technology cuts across traditional demographics as well. It’s less important how people connect than that they do connect. And given the ubiquitous nature of social technology, people—all people—do connect. (Remember, the person who posted the above posted it on Facebook, so, so much for “doing this instead of doing that.”)
Connections between people are built around shared experiences. In other words, people don’t just connect to connect, they connect to share. Where interaction used to require physical proximity, such as playing music in a park, the equivalent interaction now requires (only) network connectivity and so enables customer experiences to be shared widely and quickly. This has purchase funnel implication at the mid-funnel consideration phase in ways that trump advertising (top of funnel) and that undermines point-of-sale and similar bottom-of-funnel tactics.
From a strategic marketing perspective, it’s important to understand that shared experiences, and in particular experiences shared across digital networks by contemporary, tech-savvy consumers, are as real as any shared physical experience. But too often marketers still approach the task of conversion from the perspective of a prior generation: that interruptive advertising (think “TV”) remains effective among a generation of cord-cutters, and increasingly cord-nevers. Reality? It isn’t.
Marketing based on shared experience—the new norm for information exchange—is much more accurately modeled by the “loyalty loop” rather than the purchase funnel. The loyalty loop, shown in the figure below, is a construct that considers the role of advocates and influencers connecting via social media as critical to the conversion process.
The purchase funnel is a linear concept based on an outdated understanding of consumers: drive awareness, capture share of mind, and convert. Want more conversions? Drive more awareness, right?
Wrong. In the more modern view, the loyalty loop makes clear that advocacy—customers willing to actively recommend your product – are critical to business success. Advocacy is built on customer experience, not advertising. Consumers have redefined their media streams, limited their interruption (aka, “ad blocking”), and now routinely share experiences with each other. Developing advocates depends on providing a superior customer experience.
Assuming you have the loyalty loop working—think of this as your advocacy engine—the marketing question is “how do you attract prospects into the loop?” Again, social technology. First, by creating a place where people and ask questions and get answers you can gain a significant SEO advantage and thereby attract new prospects. And with literally billions of people using social networks there are nearly always conversations happening that are relevant to your business.
So whether it’s guitars in a park or smartphones in a backseat, the result is the same: when advocates talk about you, and when your own customers share their experiences with others, you win.
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