I just finished watching a great Hootsuite video that illustrates how social media can revolutionize local marketing by connecting businesses and consumers around simple, natural moments of opportunity.
The short clip paints a realistic picture of how social, local and mobile (SoLoMo) marketing can work together in a refreshingly simple way to drive business into the front door of any size business. Awesome.
But from a demand generation point of view, this video left me wanting more.
I mean, what if our hungry young man doesn’t follow my coffee shop yet? How do I use social media to get a shot at his business, too?
Here is the response I left on their blog this afternoon:
Love it – awesome video! But let’s take this a step further:
What if our hungry gentleman could receive the same message… without having to follow the bakery on Twitter?
In other words,
What if he simply *knew* that tweeting out “I’m hungry for something sweet” would elicit a response (or an offer) from local bakeries… or maybe a helpful link from Yelp?
Got a solution for THAT?
The “Blind Spot” of Followers and Likes
Note that Hootsuite’s example requires that our hungry young man follow the bakery online before the message was sent. Or he wouldn’t have received it. Fade to black…
Unfortunately, only 33% of consumers follow a brand in social media today. The number is growing, but we are a long way from consumers following a large portion of the merchants and brands they care about. And that’s just the brands they love. What about the other merchants in the neighborhood?
So, while the video is really nice and relevant to today’s business use of social media, in reality it only represents a very small part of what social media can do to generate demand for a local merchant. After all, if a merchant’s primary marketing objective is to drive new customers through their front door, how valuable is posting “fresh cupcakes are out of the oven” if most of your market doesn’t follow you online?
This is one of the reasons we built NeedTagger. We believe that the most efficient and broadest possible application of social media to generate demand is to make it super-easy for merchants to listen for needs expressed by every potential customer (not just their followers), so the merchant can respond to those needs and compete for business in an open and transparent manner. Not by spamming, but by using social networks like they are supposed to be used: to help people, to answer questions, to share valuable content and from time to time to offer something of real value in a moment of need.
And social-local-mobile marketing is all about finding and responding to real-time moments of need, as Hootsuite’s video so vividly illustrates. We are just suggesting a way to get a lot more exposure to the market and to help a lot more people, while keeping consumers in control of the conversation at all times. Mobile social apps are perfect mechanisms to enable this sort of marketing, if designed correctly.
The Intention Economy
Some are calling this concept, “The Intention Economy”.
One of the leaders of this movement is Doc Searls, author of the Cluetrain Manifesto and most recently, The Intention Economy – When Customers Take Charge (a compelling vision of the post-mass-marketing world of the future). The other day I had a short conversation with him on Twitter. Here is Doc’s reply to my question:
I appreciate that Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) is not simple to implement – I was a procurement and sourcing consultant a few years back. This stuff is complex. That’s probably why there are a lot of really smart people working on VRM solutions.
But it doesn’t mean we can’t get started.
The Intention Economy will begin in earnest when consumers have a really good reason to adopt a new way of engaging with merchants that puts them in the driver’s seat. They need a clear upside with very little downside, in other words. It will also occur a lot faster if we can use the tools and social networks that already exist today, rather than waiting for a whole new generation of tools and standards to arrive.
As is true with most consumer behavior changes, it will help a lot if our merchants and advertisers play an active role. But they, too, need an incentive to change.
Leading brands and respected merchants can start changing consumer behavior today AND benefit if they would simply learn how to listen and respond to needs expressed by consumers in social media – especially on Twitter.
Let’s see how this type of listen-and-respond marketing system might work, using our Hootsuite video.
A Different Social Recipe – With Tastier Results!
Here’s what it looks like when we adapt Hootsuite’s script to use a listen-and-respond marketing approach – one that doesn’t rely upon people following a brand online:
Hungry Young Man tweets out loud:
I’m hungry for something sweet…
Three local merchants and one service provider (Yelp) are immediately alerted to the local opportunity by a need detection service like NeedTagger.
Within a few minutes, four messages arrive into our Hungry Young Man’s “Recent Offers” inbox on Twitter, causing it to flash. Three offers are from companies that he doesn’t yet follow online:
@YoloDelights: Our yogurt is 100% organic. And $2 off right now! bit.ly/gfjni4ijf
@Yelp: See the bakeries and candy shops near you: ye.lp/fvjas85
@BreadNCoffee: Fresh cupcakes are out of the oven. $1 off if you arrive by noon. #delish
@CupcakeHeavn: Fresh Red Velvet Smoothies are only $1.50 until noon. awe.sm/gbjh594
Hungry Young Man replies to @BreadNCoffee’s offer (the merchant he follows):
@BreadNCoffee: Thanks for the kind offer – I’ll be there in 5! #loveuguys
This is a completely different scenario for our Hungry Young Man, isn’t it? Let’s break-down what happened here:
- He initiated a latent bidding process using a simple, natural expression.
- His offers were received in another folder, so they didn’t interrupt his current conversations.
- He decided whether to review the offers or not.
- He learned more about the tasty options in his neighborhood.
- He saved money.
- His initial “request” and his responses were just natural tweets – no special words or apps required.
- He is literally attracting a cookie trail of personal offers as he tweets about whatever he likes/desires/needs – something that most people do on Twitter today.
To recap: lots of upside and very little downside for our hungry young man. This behavior is easy enough that it might become a natural part of his day – tweeting out needs and expecting merchants to make him offers. If he doesn’t like the offers or the way the merchants converse with him, he can just block them.
Now let’s look at how the local merchants fared:
- Four companies had a shot at new business here (probably more when you count Yelp).
- All merchants received a new opportunity to drive a new customer through their door – without requiring the prospect to follow them on Twitter.
- By responding to his need, our hungry young man is now aware that they exist.
- They competed for his attention and his business in a transparent and open manner, on his terms – something that any consumer would appreciate.
- Maybe he’ll choose follow them on Twitter, now.
You might be thinking: yeah, sure, but what about @BreadNCoffee? Didn’t they spend a bunch to get our young man to follow them on Twitter? Perhaps. But the next time someone says they’re hungry for sweets, @BreadNCoffee will also get a shot at driving another new customer through their door – as long as they are listening and are willing to respond. If they continue to depend solely upon their network of followers, however, they will miss most of these new business opportunities.
Let’s Get this Party Started
There’s no reason we can’t be doing this type of intention-based, consumer-in-control marketing right now. Especially on Twitter, because it is a public network, it is social and it is perfect for mobile (local). This style of marketing certainly won’t work for all businesses, but for many consumer products and services it should work just fine. And believe us, there is no shortage of people tweeting about their food preferences right now.
NeedTagger is solving one of the key technical issues right now – identifying natural expressions of intent. We can identify intent with great precision in many consumer sectors.
Once merchants learn to listen and respond to these signals and consumers take notice, natural market forces can get moving. Social media marketing may never be the same.
Building new social connections between consumers and local merchants is a HUGE opportunity for Google, Twitter and Facebook – and for the consumers and merchants they serve. The size of the Intention Economy probably dwarfs anything we’ve done to date with content marketing, influencers, superfans, followers and likes. This fact isn’t lost on anyone in this business.
So, the question I want to ask our social media giants – especially Twitter – is:
What the heck are we waiting for?
NeedTagger connects you with people who need your content, products and services right now. No consultants or keywords are required.