Marketers can use their brand expertise to break through the clutter

Digital marketer Eric Anderson argues that “[c]onsumer empowerment through social media is inevitable and permanent, irrespective of the specific channel or technology.” This is mainly due to the sense of freedom that people feel when they rely on – and turn to – peers for information.  As a result, he says – “[t]he criteria for successful social media participation by marketers will become more stringent, not less, as demand on consumer attention increases.” At the same time, marketers who overstep the mark in social media face persistent consumer backlash that “will gradually evolve a set of norms for that participation.”

This is a main reason all marketers are becoming multi-channel marketers. Social media has been the catalyst that has finally driven marketers away from the comfort of their websites and into the land where the consumer dwells. Here, consumers own the land and marketers are just visitors. This uneasy position has put marketers on the back foot: how does one take control of the conversation where he’s the unwanted guest?

According to Seth Godin, American entrepreneur, author and public speaker, interruption marketing is all but dead (video), “you are busy yelling at people about a problem they don’t think they have. If they don’t think they have the problem – they will not listen, there’s simply too much clutter…”

The reason interruption marketing doesn’t work in social channels is that, while consumers are only too happy to be interrupted when they are receiving value from a 3rd party contributor – and pay for this value with chunks of their attention, the entire value chain is based on the fact that all parties give away their value for free (or in exchange for similar value from others). This puts the onus on marketers to find another way to be seen and heard.

Disillusioned with interruption marketing, Seth Godin coined – and champions – the term “permission marketing” and defined it as “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”

The answer is brand-expertise

In his book Attention!: how to interrupt, yell, whisper, and touch consumersauthor Ken Sacharin compares attempts to grab the attention of consumers to trying strategies for getting attention in a crowded room. The one person who always gets noticed in a crowded room is the expert. Why do experts enjoy such special social privileges? Japanese philosopher Shunryu Suzuki saw expertise as an extended exercise in focus: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few”, he said.

As they set out to make purchasing decisions, consumers (those denizens of crowded rooms) need specific – specialised – information. While they may not be keen to hear the voice of the marketing department, trying to make a sale, they are more than likely to want to hear a piece of good advice. Offering real-value advice is a sure and tested way to get one’s undivided attention. This offers marketers the opportunity to set themselves up as experts in particular topics. Marketers should therefore establish a centre of knowledge, positioning themselves as subject-experts.

Tom Kelley from IDEO – the international design and innovation think-tank consultancy – coined the term “T-shaped individual” when referring to people who “enjoy a breadth of knowledge in many fields, but they also have depth in at least one area of expertise.” Marketers’ broad knowledge may make them good conversationalists and increase their popularity, but their in-depth brand-knowledge will ultimately help them to make a sale.

When you’re the best source of information available, your customers will come to you.

#social media participation#consumer empowerment#consumer attention#multi-channel marketers#interruption marketing#T-shaped individual#centre of knowledge#domain experts