Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Does Your Brand Need a Platform?

Writing about the SuperBowl, I mentioned the term ‘platform.’ I recognized it as the multiple communications channels I’ve been talking about for a long time. It seems crystal clear to me that various segments of customers rely on various (also multiple) communications chanels. It’s also obvious that we miss a lot of the communications that marketers target toward us; doesn’t matter whether the channel is direct mail or Twitter!

What I realized is that a platform is more than just multiple channels. Harry Gold’s slide captures it perfectly; it’s the complete set of channels that reach your target audience, yes. But the channels are connected, with a lot of the connections (integration?) being automated.

It would really be nice to know for specific target audiences, which and how many social networks they belong too. Most of us would say we belong to several; how many is that and which specific ones? That’s hard to answer even for generic segments. I did find a 2008 study of wealthy consumers who said they belonged to 2.8 networks each. Given that they are probably older than the population average, that may be a surprise to some. It shouldn’t be. According to a study of Google AdPlanner data by Pingdom, “A full 25% of the users on these sites (19 by my count) are aged 35 to 44, which in other words is the age group that dominates the social media sphere.” Interesting, but doesn’t answer my basic question.

There are two issues, though, that I think can be generally accepted:

• There are multiple networks that appeal to a specific target audience; Twitter and LinkedIn for business people, for example.
• A lot of users don’t see all the communications that pass through any given network. If you use Twitter, think about it; in a given 24-hour period, how many of the Tweets that are sent to your account do you actually see?

Point is, we have to get our message out through multiple channels multiple times to have a fighting chance to have it seen, much less acted on.

So as you look at Harry’s chart, ask yourself:

• Which channels are important to our target audience?
• What kind of content is most relevant to each? Videos for YouTube, content-heavy posts for blogs, and 140 character Tweets are some of the obvious.
• How should we connect the relevant channels? Even better, how can we automate the connections between them (this post goes automatically to Twitter, for example) to save the mindless and error-prone activity of reposting?

Connect them and you have a platform!

Two things I’ve learned:

• It’s not always as easy as it sounds; some of the feeds that make the connections automatic are easy. Others will require help from IT.
• Connecting the various networks doesn’t eliminate the necessity of an acquisition strategy—for fans, followers, whatever you think is the best entry point.

Marketers are still going to have to work at it, but a platform makes both strategic and practical sense!


Rob T said...

Well, Call me crazy..but I think the more we move along with all these different platforms and channels, it becomes increasingly clear that marketing professionals really need to have some basic IT training. We know that PR and Marketing have gotten very close over the years and I think this is becoming the case between IT and Marketing. However, as MLR likes to point out constantly, the people that work in each of these areas are not nececsarily the most compatible when it comes to working together. The implications of how this all plays out are still yet to be seen.

MaryLou Roberts said...

Good point, Rob. Yes, marketers need to speak the language of IT--enough to be clear on what they need, not necessarily to execute it themselves. Bridging the gap between marketing and IT is a big issue. Like other relationships, it requires trust on both sides!