Many companies think of the internet like television: consumers are expected to sit patiently and absorb the branded message, and then act accordingly. Now, with the rise of a combination of technologies called Web 2.0, the internet is much more than a broadcast channel.
With the ever-increasing social use of the web, websites are becoming venues for discussion of ideas, opinions and transactions. Social networking is the framework in which these conversations happen. Our challenge as marketers is to leverage the power of these new social networks to create innovative brand experiences.
Take a look at how you can create these experiences for your customers.
Steve Mulder is principal consultant in user experience at Molecular and Evan Gerber is a user experience consultant at Molecular. Read full bio here.
Active Worlds is a richly textured virtual world where an unlimited number of people can interact with one another over the internet. It's part game and part social environment.
To reach a younger demographic, Wells Fargo created an immersive, branded experience within Active Worlds. Users who would never visit WellsFargo.com now chat, play and learn the basics of investing from the Wells Fargo brand.
Social sites provide a bridge for companies like Wells Fargo to reach an audience outside its own site's typical demographic.
Wells Fargo creates a rich, immersive branded experience with Active Worlds.
Allowing customers to create their own messages around products or services provides a trusted voice to market the brand. Chevrolet recently created a tool enabling users to build their own commercial, resulting in a highly successful viral marketing campaign.
However, there are risks-- as brand managers no longer control the content, the brand is out in the wild. During the recent Chevy campaign, for example, environmental activists created negative ads. Nonetheless, even this had its own reward. According to Ed Peper, the Chevrolet GM, "It sure got people talking about the Tahoe, which was the whole idea, after all."
An example of a commercial created by a Chevrolet customer.
Next: Encourage brand loyalty
A branded experience tailored to the needs of the customer yields positive results. Innovative firms combine aspects of social networking with personalization, building loyalty through compelling brand experiences.
Netflix applies this concept by enabling users to build social networks among family and friends and then serves content based on these connections. When browsing movies, users can immediately see which movies their friends or family rated, enabling more serendipitous discovery. This creates loyalty to the Netflix brand, which in turn increases sales and provides a more streamlined user experience.
Netflix enables users to build social networks among family and friends.
User experience is closely related to brand perception, and a fundamental tenet of this is to help users find what they need. Easing search and inviting user participation creates an engaging and successful user experience.
Flickr, a website dedicated to helping users organize and share photos online, allows users to label or "tag" photos. The photos can then be searched or browsed by these keywords. Tagging leads to a flexible, user-built information architecture called a folksonomy, a system that makes information more intuitive to find. Rather than limiting navigation to the site's system, users are permitted to create multiple paths, which evolve as content or needs change.
Flickr allows users to label or "tag" photos that can then be searched or browed by these keywords.
User-generated content enables a firm to leverage marketing's best tool: a satisfied customer. Social networking greases the skids of consumer reviews by emphasizing the ratings and reviews that users care most about-- those from their friends.
Users on Yub.com, an online mall where people meet, chat and receive up to 25 percent discounts for shopping, create large networks of virtual friends. The user's opinions are automatically sent out to all of their friends as a "rave." The brand is on all communications and the social network encourages users to return to the site often.
Yub.com creates large networks of virtual friends that share product ratings and reviews.
Many businesses have taken advantage of social networking to enhance their brand, reach out to new markets and deepen their relationship with existing customers. While participation in these networks can introduce risk, it also creates tremendous room for success.
So tune in, turn on, and draw on the power from the people.