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The 3 key personalities of the online consumer

The 3 key personalities of the online consumer Jeff Cannon

"Think global, Work Local." It's a phrase originally coined in 1915, with urban planning in mind. Today, almost 100 years later, it is the key to effectively building your brand and business online. The difference is that in today's marketing arena, global refers to a brand's over-arching identity, while local refers to how that brand is portrayed on specific media portals. It is no longer physical geography that counts. It is the subject matter that does. 

This means that yes, the old rules of marketing still apply. The concept of creating a strong brand and effectively positioning it in the market still works. What is new is the way in which you must edit your message to ensure consumers listen to what you have to say. 

Stay informed. To learn more about localizing effective online communication attend ad:tech San Francisco, April 19-21. Learn more.

In a broad sense, communicating effectively online is simple. Success relies on maintaining a stream of content that hits the right people with the right message at the right time. Relevancy is essential for success. Let's face it, if you're at a club on Friday night, you don't want someone pitching you their latest electronic security product. Conversely, a Tuesday morning meeting in the corporate boardroom is probably not the best place for a rant about Lady Gaga's hot new single. Different place, different expectations. 

On the internet, consumers think the same way. They act differently in locations. Offline, people act one way at the office, another way with friends on the weekend, and still another way when shopping at a tag sale. It is no different online, and that profoundly affects how you should approach the task of taking your brand off your agency's drawing board and bringing it to life in the digital world. 

To succeed, you need to think in terms of three personalities for every customer -- Casual, Professional, and Sales. How do you do this?  Read on:

No. 1 -- Localize your message:  People act differently on different websites and on different social networks. They chat and email casually on Facebook, and more professionally on LinkedIn. They are instantly more casual while browsing for their favorite gossip than while searching for new business leads. In the morning, it may be a professional demeanor. But as the day goes on, attitudes change when websites like Gawker and PerezHilton become an escape. Sales on GiltGroupe.com surge around lunchtime when men and women rush for luxury bargains. But they are not about to stop shopping in order to follow an offer on low-priced server technology. So when you think of how to craft your message, don't just think of your customer, think in terms of the websites your customers visit, and develop three styles of messages that fit their mindset and your goal:

  • Casual -- better for building brand awareness and market positioning

  • Professional -- better for market positioning and relationship sales

  • Sales -- better for direct selling

No. 2 -- Stop thinking in terms of a single campaign: Because of the website's localized nature, you can no longer afford to work in the context of a larger campaign. Sorry, Don Draper, but companies cannot blast out the same tag line across every media outlet to see what sticks. To find success with creating social networks, and with online marketing in general, you need to refine your message to ensure it targets customers in an appropriate manner, no matter when they see it. This means adopting a more casual tone for social networks, providing business tips and hints with business networks, and developing a sales-driven, bottom-line approach for industry-specific, sales-driven websites. 

  • Casual -- useful on social networks where content should speak more to the general theme of the website, with only brief references to the product (90 percent relevant content, 10 percent product mention)

  • Professional -- useful on business networks where people are interested in finding tips, hints, and "how-to's" for business growth

  • Sales -- useful for direct response websites that sell products.  These should focus on product benefits and advantages, and drive a sale

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No. 3 -- Aggregate your ROI: Just as your message should be crafted for three distinct customer personalities, so should your expectations for ROI. Social networks are better for brand positioning. Business networks are better for positioning and developing professional relationships. Sales websites are better for driving direct sales. In combining the components together, each should be assessed and fine-tuned on their ability to deliver sales, brand awareness, or on their ability to position a business in the market. This might kill the goose for some of the larger agencies who love the idea of launching a single campaign that requires less work and higher media fees, but it will produce better results and more realistic expectations. 

Set realistic expectations. Start small and grow slowly. Most people are overly anxious to jump right in with big ideas, only to find they have over-stretched the time it takes to update and maintain good, relevant content. Once you start missing the mark, you start losing your audience, and you lose your campaign. From Twitter to Facebook, from YouTube to LinkedIn, it's better to update your content weekly than try to maintain a daily stream of information. In social marketing, less is more -- just as long as it's relevant and useful to your customers. 

At the end of the day, social networks are here to stay. They are where people spend their time and live their lives. Just look at the numbers:

  • 41 percent of worldwide internet users trust online advertising

  • Social media is the No. 1 activity on the web

  • Facebook alone has 350 million users who share 55 million updates each and every day

  • Facebook announces 3.5 million events each month

  • You Tube is now the No. 2 search engine

  • There are 200 million bloggers on the internet, more than half of whom (54 percent) post every day

Effectively tapping into the networks your customers value means going back to the basics. It means identifying your brand's core attributes. It means defining a strong position in your market. But it also means thinking differently, and translating your message to the three personalities your customers will adopt while they do what they do online. If you can do this, you can create the kind of ongoing conversation that can turns general consumers into paying customers, and paying customers into brand loyalists who will praise your name to everyone they know. 

Isn't that the goal of marketing in the first place?

Jeff Cannon is president of Think Cannon LLC.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

After successfully growing TheCannonGroup into a $1MM agency, Jeff Cannon launched Think Cannon - a full service, integrated communications firm designed to leverage traditional strategies with digital applications to produce the maximum effect.

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Commenter: chris weigmann

2010, February 26

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