The Web is Social, The Web is Real-Time

Marketing, adaptation and the techno-cognitive madness

Our World Has Changed
Social media has fundamentally dislodged the traditional communications equilibrium. Content scarcity has given way to content overload, fixed channels of communication have dissolved into fluid and complex networks of information exchange, and once-captive audiences have now become active participants in a largely consumer-driven conversation. This shift requires a new course of action for brands; it demands new marketing imperatives. The answer does not lie in social media marketing alone, or in what social media marketing is purported to be. The solution lies in understanding changing behaviors, patterns of communication and modes of living that the social web merely illuminates. We must adapt and apply new thinking, skills and methodologies based on these insights.

“The Web is more a social creation than a technical one.”

The Web is Social
For years my personal blog has bannered the title “The Web is Social,” a phrase that has seemed to garner more smiles and winks than serious consideration. However, when we examine the nature of the web as it is now, we quickly see just what this phrase actually means. The web!s architect himself, Tim BernersLee, stated, “The Web is more a social creation than a technical one.” The web is literally a network of experiential touch points, creating through its iterations increasing degrees of social context and personalization in end user experiences. Touch points on the web today may best be described as falling into one of three social categories:
• Explicitly social, as in the case of Facebook or Twitter where the primary function of these touch points is to enable explicit social interaction and communication Contextually social, as when reading the New York Times online or shopping on Amazon—the primary functions here are to consume media or to shop, but the experience is contextualized by social connectivity (comments, Likes, Shares, and now Facebook Connect and the Open Graph API) Influenced by “social signals,” as is the case with the engines, Google in particular, who increasingly leverage social data to determine relevancy and rank within search

Social Media Marketing Redux
Social media marketing has matured over the years as the web itself has evolved to become what might aptly be described as an entirely social environment. For marketers, however, “social media” still largely exists within a channel-based marketing paradigm; and, for many social media is simply a new channel. However, the rise of social media is more than simply the rise of a new “channel” opportunity. It has signaled the rise of a new, complex consumer modality, generating altogether new behaviors and communicative norms in general. We, as consumers, seem to be on the brink of a kind of techno-cognitive nomadism, a world in which communication output is evermore ubiquitous, ambient and continuous —where conversation and activity, from tweets to Likes and Shares, are not only visible pieces of meta-data, but forms of content in their own right. The link between content, identity and activity is tightening, fast. We continue to witness the evolution of content and its consumption as a direct corollary to the evolution of the social web itself. As the web, and the new patterns of behavior it begets evolve, so must we see a change in how we approach our marketing philosophies and practices (I would add that it mandates an evolution in business practices, but that is a topic to be expounded upon in another context). “Social media,” as a marketing practice, should truly be embedded everywhere and “live” nowhere. It!s not about social media marketing—it's about live, “real-time,” adaptive marketing. It!s about being Aware, Agile and Active in a networked world of continuous, channelagnostic content and conversation.

It!s Time to Evolve
While marketing philosophies are great, it!s the practical business application of these ideas that drives change. The opportunity is to meet the challenge before us through new methodologies and innovative creativity to architect and execute solutions that operate at the speed of the web. It means executing, testing and iterating on data-driven strategies brought to life through nodal experience design, agile content creation, community architecture, active management, and actionable analytics.

We Need a New Kind of “Brand Awareness”
Brands must develop a new kind of “brand awareness.” They themselves must become Aware—aware of their own identity as it is molded and formed in the web through consumer-driven content and conversation. Being Aware means pulling real-time insights from multiple data inputs—from conversation data and search intelligence to a variety of market research tactics,

to deliver actionable insights into customer needs, preferences, behaviors and technographics. Our understanding of “insights” must evolve too—it’s about knowing who your customer is right now, in real-time, all the time. It’s about real-time awareness rather than historical trends. Synthesis of insights and opportunities drives the crafting of real-time marketing strategies designed to support iterative engagement-- engagement that is relevant, timely and focused on driving results that impact not only your brand buzz factor, but actualize real business goals.

Agility Rules
A brand must be agile, adept at acting upon data and iterating its digital experience based on real-time insights. Brand experiences on the web are no longer isolated to a controllable brand website or campaign-based paid media touch points. It includes every touch point – from “earned” search and social visibility to “owned” and “borrowed” branded social capital. Designing the brand experience doesn!t just mean designing a great site as a center hub surrounded by spokes. It requires architecting a live ecosystem, functioning together in real-time through content and community.

Adaptive Content is King
“Real-time” centers on the ability to generate content, lots of it. Brands must now act as mini media entities—with real-time relevancy predicated on active participation in conversation through dialogue and content. But not just content, content that moves, adapts and functions like conversational currency. Unlike the traditional marketing approach to content creation (generally static web copy, a set of videos and photo assets), real-time marketing requires “agile content development.” This means creating rich, engaging content on an ongoing basis. It requires new creative skill sets, a hybrid ability to create and curate media, develop derivative conversation-as-content and understand how to market content-as-product. There is no longer the luxury of staggered campaigns, heavy asset development and controlled channels of distribution. The web, and conversation therein, doesn!t sleep, and now neither can brands.

Community Architecture, #FTW
Content alone does not create successful real-time marketing. Success requires live, active and adaptive dialogue, participation and management. Working handin-hand with the ongoing content development, proper community design and management is crucial to digital relevancy. It goes beyond what might be considered “community management,” it requires a new breed of communications strategy and digital marketing expertise.

Managing the brand ecosystem is a full-time job. It must leverage the expertise and skills of talented individuals who understand the engagement landscape, who think and function more like a new breed of user experience expert, communications designer and real-time strategist than “social media guru.” Community architecture and management activities embedded therein, are key to success in the real-time web.

It!s All Connected
As the web continues to evolve, we see that what we do as marketers, communicators and people is truly about adapting to a real-time, networked world. As Rachel Pasqua, Director of Mobile Strategy at iCrossing, states: “There is no social web or mobile web. The ways consumers are using the web is increasingly social, and the way in which they are accessing the web is increasingly mobile.” It is this point that precisely illustrates the need to evolve, to find solutions for marketing in an always on, incredibly social, highly mobile, connected world.

Connect with me: @alisamleo LinkedIn/in/alisamleo

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