Two weeks ago, I wrote that sophisticated Internet users are moving beyond surf-and-search behavior to a new model. I also discussed this on a panel at Search Engine Strategies in Chicago, moderated by Rebecca Lieb, ClickZ’s executive editor. Users are accessing new content through social networks, blogs, and enthusiast sites.
People are most likely to be interested in content that’s relevant and useful. As a result, new types of directories are emerging. That’s why Yahoo recently purchased de.licio.us.
Though search has been the predominant access method for the past three to five years, I predict consumers will routinely use a blended access approach to find relevant content, that is, access through both top-down search and community directories.
The directory is back. Web 2.0 is a back-to-the-future story. After all, Yahoo started as a directory.
Add this to the explosion of consumer-generated media (CGM) (the two go hand in hand), and you see why this will be a big challenge for marketers. No longer will marketers be able to focus solely on improving search rankings by making modifications to their sites or buying keywords. Marketers will have to behave like content creators and distributors.
Here’s what to do:
- Map out digital touch points. Don’t think about search, online advertising, and site enhancements as the three prongs of your digital strategy. Instead, map all the digital touch points your targets will encounter, and use that to define your strategy. Sometimes the complexity is overwhelming: blogs, podcasts, email, Web sites, RSS, mobile, digital billboards — everything. How do you make sense of it all? Do what our chief creative officer, Colleen DeCourcy, does. When she isn’t clear how all the digital touch points connect, she pulls out a giant roll of paper and maps them. Soon, everyone begins to see how the experience connects to the target audience and where the map might be extended into a realm well beyond traditional search and online advertising. Sometimes a simple, low-tech approach like this is still the best way to clarify the complex. We call it the grid.
- Define a content strategy for your brand. Every brand stands for something. It’s more critical than ever to figure out what yours stands for and to translate that into compelling experiences and stories on the Web. Look at how Unilever’s Axe was marketed to a young male audience or how we market the Jeep Commander to families. Think of this as the power, the juice, for the grid.
- Figure out how to distribute your content strategy. If the digital touch points illustrate the grid and the content is the power, how do you get the power flowing? Do you buy ads and optimize search, or do you have a viral element? How will you engage consumers in a dialogue? Will you invite them to create content related to your brand? Brands will make it increasingly easy and fun for consumers to create content featuring their brands. Most marketers have brand guidelines and a directory of assets, such as logos and images. What if you made that available online to brand advocates and let them do their own mash-ups (define)?
Moleskinerie is a wonderful example of brand love. Consumers share their life experiences. Here’s how the site is described: “This is Moleskinerie, a blog dedicated to the proposition that not all notebooks are created equal. Its impeccable provenance notwithstanding this site will talk more about the places and adventures, life’s little dramas and other forgettable events that otherwise would have been lost were it not scrawled between the pages of these little black books.”
- Watch and learn. All good marketing begins with putting your customer at the center of your business; empathizing with their needs, wants, fears, and motivations; and understanding their behavior. Monitoring how they interact with, feel about, and create content related to your brand is essential. It often means going places you might have never imagined you would find them. Good usage data (e.g., from Complete) is important, as is data on CGM usage (e.g., from Intelliseek) or Web site analytics (e.g., from WebSideStory).
As you consider your digital strategy for 2006, I challenge you to define your grid, find the juice, and figure out how you are going to light up the grid. Good luck!