Response, Interaction and Dialogue.

By Posted in - Innovation on July 11th, 2008
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I spoke at the AGR conference in Newport, Wales on Monday. My topic was Mobile Marketing: The Future of Recruitment?. I’ve had a growing interest in Mobile marketing for a few years now, as I’ve come closer and closer to the notion of a single, hand-held device being my primary means of communication. It started with the introduction of SMS in the US before I moved over here. (Note: It was available in the US for a long time, but we were far behind the rest of the world with the uptake of SMS, both for personal communication, as well as for marketing purposes.)

I used a number of sources to pull my presentation together, from blogs to videos to articles found on Digg to del.icio.us and mostly found statistics and case studies that supported ideas that I had anyways. (Not that I’m so incredibly intelligent). I also saw some new thinking, both in terms of strategies that hadn’t yet come across my desk, as well as some new terminology.

One post that I really liked a lot was from the ad:tech blog, called “In a Multiplatform World, Brands must be Present, Relevant” (June 2008). This post talked about Multiplatform Marketing, and the importance of giving roles to the different components in your marketing strategy, not just thinking about reach and frequency across channels. They talked about providing channels for response, interaction and dialogue.

This was relevant to the conference I was speaking at, because most recruiting organisations do not think about using channels in different ways. Recruitment marketing tends to focus on one thing: response. Despite several years of articles, blog posts and keynote addresses from industry experts, the majority of organisations focus very heavily on direct response (or indirect response through a recruiter – which is even more ridiculous).

However, even outside of the realm of recruitment marketing, few brands think about and/or use interaction and dialogue effectively in their marketing strategy. Nike are doing some very interesting things with mobile marketing strategies that allow people to interact with electronic billboards and more, and other companies such as JetBlue are engaging customers in dialogue on the internet (and micro blogging platforms like Twitter) but in general few organisations are doing so.

I’m sure that in many cases, this is not due to a lack of knowledge or even of desire, but a lack of resource or an organisational structure that is not set up for interaction and dialogue. But it seems to me that the organisations that do make room for dialogue with their consumers are moving ahead of the pack in the great landgrab for people’s attention, respect and permission to be a part of their lives.

And, what’s more, that permissions seems to come down to how far into someone’s communication stream they will allow you to be. I used to be very concerned about who had my email address. I set up several different email addresses, which would allow me to segment my contact with people and allow me to have a business persona, a creative persona, and a normal persona. But things moved too fast to keep up with the maintenance on all of it, so I found myself setting my many email addresses up to forward to a single email address. This worked when people composed their emails from their address book, because they would keep whatever email address I gave them and use that to send me emails. But who composes an email from their address book anymore? Now you go to your inbox and look for an email from that person and “reply to sender” (which meant that everyone noticed that my email address was actually a Yahoo email address and not the one I’d given them).

And that’s just email, which is already outdated technology for some (a seminar I went to last year had surveyed 16 year olds in the UK who said “email? – that’s what my Dad uses to send letters”).

People will let you email them something because it’s not their first port of call for communication. That’s either their social network, or their phone… and with the growth of mobile-enabled versions of all of the social networks, you can see where it’s all headed.
Why is this significant? Well, Social Networks allowed you to put all of your contacts into one place, and even decide which Brands can reach you and how much you’re willing to engage with them. They allow you to segment your contacts, either by groups within a social network, or by which social networks you allow someone into. For example, old colleagues are not always allowed into my Facebook network, but I would allow them into LinkedIn, MySpace is the only place I really actively engage with my music industry contacts and friends, and so on. I hardly use email anymore. In fact, many of my friends back home were getting upset because I never responded to their emails anymore. Why? I can’t control (even with all of the new anti-spam technology) who puts messages into my inbox, so I spend all day deleting junk messages just to be able to read messages from my friends. Second, I am never really on my computer at home and don’t have time to check personal emails from work, so I’m checking Yahoo through the Web on my BlackBerry… and then having to spend the whole time deleting spam through a slow, small and difficult to use interface. Using email had become inconvenient as a tool for dialogue and even responding via email was becoming a chore.

So, then earlier this year, our IT Director was kind enough to let me test out an iPhone. I was already a fairly heavy mobile internet user on my BlackBerry, but did find the interface annoying. The iPhone’s interface (and no I’m not going to make this an iPhone post… but I do think it’s one of the coolest gadgets ever invented) makes the mobile internet more accessible, not entirely, but moreso. This is because people are designing applications for the iPhone interface that make it easy for me to decide exactly what information has permission to be in my pocket and at my fingertips 24-hours a day.

The things I want to do are send/receive messages from my friends, take and send photographs to people, listen to music and find out about news, music, films and random information like the origin of the term Geordie (for people from around Newcastle, UK), I’d also like to record videos and send them, and although I hadn’t realized it yet, I really like being able to find places on a map.

I can do so on my phone and find it easier to keep in touch with all of my different networks, and have even found my way into new ones. I can respond, interact and have dialogue with friends, business contacts and even brands all from this one device.

This has lead to several revelations for me:

1. There is really no difference between an SMS and an email anymore.

Typing on a phone isn’t easy, so I don’t type long messages anymore. So whether I’m emailing or texting the message length is about the same.

2. It’s easier to text

Texting is instant, I don’t have to delete spam from my inbox and it’s just as effective for 90% of the communication

3. I don’t need, or want to, belong to all of these different communities

I’m now thinking that the next thing to come will be a single login that lets you into Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Last.fm, Del.icio.us, Digg, Flickr and YouTube. I’m also thinking that Apple, or someone, should come up with customisable sets of configurations for the home screen. So the “Sport Fan’s” home screen, vs the “Social Networker’s” home screen, where it changes the default icons to a set that is very useful to that individual… similar to iGoogle or MyYahoo… it’s a “myiPhone” customiser. In fact, I actually want one application that brings them all together (Jaiku seems to be headed in that direction?)

4. I talk to people on the phone more

Now that I send shorter emails to people, I am more likely to just want to pick up the phone to discuss a more complicated manner than I used to be… when I would have sent a long email first and then called to discuss only if necessary

5. From a Marketing perspective, the whole game is changing… again… and fast

This is the part that excites me. The possibilities are endless here, it truly is time for Brands to have a response channel, interaction channel and dialogue channel (and to think about how they position their offer in each channel, as each should have a very different purpose in their marketing strategy… everything from making friends, to creating ambassadors, to testing ideas with early adopters, to soliciting employee referrals, to sharing ideas, to collaborating with other businesses, to seeding the market with new ideas…

I have found a renewed purpose for my blog and will hopefully be back on here more often. Would love to have dialogue with anyone that found this interesting…

Check me out on Twitter and drop me a line if you saw this and found it interesting…

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