Someone recently asked me what people mean when they say, in relation to Internet marketing, that someone ‘gets it.’ They knew that ‘getting it’ roughly equates to being ‘in the know.’ But what, they asked me, is the ‘it’ to get?
It’s a tough question to answer, because there’s a lot involved in understanding the Internet. My best attempt to explain it is that ‘getting it’ means understanding how the Internet is profoundly different from the communication and marketing channels that came before it.
The best place to start to understand ‘it’ is CyberGeography.org. There you can see, in visual representations, how the Internet is a network of interconnected worlds, unlike anything that came before it.
A big part of a marketer’s job is to spread messages about brands and products. As an online marketer, looking at these maps helps you realize what type of environment the messages you create need to thrive in. It’s a multi-dimensional message universe that has completely undermined traditional ways of marketing to customers.
Before the Internet, marketing communication was dominated by the broadcast channels, in which messages were sent out, one way, to a mass audience. The power to create and spread messages about brands was directly proportional to the amount of money a company could spend on advertising. These messages were usually concoctions of images, words and music that evoked feelings about brands.
The Internet changed all that. Customers are now connected to each other across space and time. Marketers no longer control the way brands are talked about. Sites like Deja.com and epinions.com aggregate consumers and allow them to compare notes about products and services. The increase in the speed and reach of word-of-mouth is incalculable.
Successful marketing no longer means simply creating messages that appeal to everyone. And it’s not just getting and responding to feedback. It’s about understanding and harnessing a dialogue among everyone who comes in contact with your brand. That’s why viral marketing is so important – relying on your own customer to spread messages. (See “What Does Viral Marketing Really Mean?” for more on this).
The concept of brands changes too. The brand experience no longer simply conveys a feeling toward a product or brand, built via advertising and interaction with a product. Brands are now entwined with service, delivery, availability of product, and other measures of value. For example, when the Levi’s site doesn’t answer an email or offer products on its site, that impacts the customer’s perception of the brand. Brands have depth and are part of multiple points of contact.
There’s a lot that goes into understanding what makes the Internet different. I’m still trying to figure it out. But I do know that ‘getting it’ means understanding how the Internet is a sea-change from the past.