Joel harkens back to a memorable event during the era of Spanish conquistadors to get his message across to marketers — you need to burn your boats, for what worked before won’t produce results any longer. There is no going back.
It was in 1519 that Captain Hernan Cortes landed his fleet of 10 vessels and 550 Spaniards on the coast of Yucatan. He started a slow advance in what would ultimately lead to the fall of the Aztec empire. A resolute Cortes, determined to conquer Mexico, when asked by his men when they would return home to Spain, torched his ships to make retreat impossible.
No going back, only going forward, Joel says. That’s the message marketers must keep in mind in today’s world, but with a modern twist.
“What I really want you to do is Control-Alt-Delete,” he tells the Toronto crowd.
Thankfully marketers won’t need weapons of war to conquer the social media space. But they will need to be armed with new gadgets from Apple, augmented reality applications, a gamut of social media accounts, and a willingness to take risk, according to Joel.
Joel is also the author of Six Pixels of Separation and has been dubbed the “Rock Star of Digital Marketing” by Marketing Magazine. Google invited him to their base in Mountain View, Calif. to describe online marketing to some of the world’s largest brands. That’s where he was startled to learn that one-fifth of all Google searches performed every day have never been performed before.
“We have to be comfortable in a world where these sorts of ebbs and flows happen every day,” he says. “We can’t build marketing programs in quarters anymore.”
When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439 it was the first time the world achieved a one-to-many mode of communications. When telecommunications came along, it was the first time that a two-way communications mode was deployed among the masses.
Every mode of communication has been modeled that way since then, Joel says. It is either one-way or two-way, but social media is upsetting that model with a group-based form of communications.
Joel said companies are afraid to allow open commenting on their Web sites, for fear of what may be said.
But there is no reason to be afraid of negative reviews. “If you open up and enable your consumers to say whatever they want about your products or services, on average, they will say great things,” he says, except if you completely suck.
But sometimes negative reviews can actually be better than positive reviews, he adds. Negative comments have been shown to actually drive sales more directly. For example, Amazon.com’s best-selling books are often the ones that get one-star ratings. It’s those books that are attracting a more in-depth conversation.
Marketers must accept that the voice of the consumer has been elevated by social media to be equal to the voice of the marketer. No longer does a company have sole control over its own brand.
“The first page of search results is your brand experience,” Joel says. “Forget your Web site.”
That’s why it is so important to not just publish into social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, but to actually engage people there. Be familiar with your brand and what it is offering to people — then figure out how to be there when consumers are looking for your brand, but may not know it yet.
“Success will not simply come by doing it (social media),” he says. “It will come by the actions and activities of your consumers in this channel.”
In today’s mass media equation, the roles of messenger and receiver have been jumbled and mixed. No longer is it Cortes deciding to burn the ships, to make sure his men can’t go back — now his men are burning the ships to make sure Cortes stays the course.
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