Simpler than it seems: Joseph Silk on using technology effectively

I don’t know about you, but everywhere I look lately I see the words ‘big data’, ‘content is king’, ‘social media is the new black’ and an infinite number of other generalisations about how our media consumption and behaviour is being moulded by technological innovations.

These innovations have taught us to speak in 140 characters or less, share what we’re having for dinner with a bunch of virtual strangers and consume pictures rather than words, preferably 45 seconds or less (thanks YouTube). In the process, they have also encouraged us to be always on, always connected and have led to a pandemic of that archetypal 21st century disease, FOMO. 

‘But wait a minute,’ I hear you say, mag in one hand, laptop open and smartphone at the ready should someone urgently need to text you. All this technology is a good thing, especially for marketers. We now have omni-channel opportunities to engage prospects and customers alike. We can connect and sell in so many different ways. It’s nirvana, isn’t it? 

I don’t disagree. But when I look at my family and friends I see a very different picture. I see people trying to get on with life and working out ways to minimise the complications in their everyday environment, complications caused by the technological innovations aforementioned.

As consumers, each of us has the most powerful tools of all at our disposal: opposable thumbs and independent thought. With these tools we have the power to switch off, change over and delete. To my knowledge there hasn’t been a technology yet that can beat it.

My colleagues and I have been pondering this fact for some time now and it has become abundantly clear that content can only be king when it is accompanied by a well-thought-through strategy. The best content in the world is no good if no one sees it. It’s no good if they see it and don’t understand it. It’s no good if they watch it and don’t get it. Content needs to be timely, relevant and engaging. It needs to have a purpose and a place in the overall marketing mix. It needs to be developed as a result of a clear, well-thought-through strategy and delivered through a comprehensive plan.
If we remember these three basic things we should all see better results:

  1. Relevance. Is what you’re showing me and where you’re showing it to me relevant to me at that time (of the day, of the year, in my life). If not I will disengage immediately, and even worse I might publicly vilify your effort.
  2. This is not Field of Dreams. You cannot build it and hope that they will come; Kevin Costner will not save you. I cannot stress this point enough. Too many times really great content dies on the vine because all the energy and effort (budget) was spent on building and little effort was put towards disseminating to, or attracting the very people we want to see it and engage with it.
  3. It is not a set-and-forget world anymore, if it ever was. Optimise, optimise, optimise. Ensure you have allowed enough budget to watch the watchers, follow the stats and tweak, edit or completely withdraw – whatever is necessary.

A recent conversation with a client made me think. We had produced some video content for them, which seemed to be working well. We had followed rules one and two above but there was still an issue. The data was showing us that the majority of views stopped at the same point in the video. On closer inspection this was more or less when the client’s logo appeared. Enter rule three.

As direct marketers it’s in our DNA to target, to find the people we want to talk to and at best have a one-to-one conversation. This is no easy task and I applaud the many brands out there that are working hard to better understand who their core market is and where they are. Some are even taking the time to build mechanisms to have meaningful value exchanges over a long period of time as they play the long game.

So I say yes to big data and yes to faster, better technology and yes to the power of the consumer to make choices. But it’s up to us to use the first two wisely if we wish the third to work in our favour.

  • Joseph Silk is a director at Chemistry Interaction. ([email protected])
  • This column was originally published in the March/April edition of NZ Marketing. 

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