Perhaps you’ve heard about blogs – the hottest communication story of last year. Commentators from Newsweek to the Wall Street Journal, from CNN to PBS have devoted time to the phenomenon. Blogs are just one of the new technologies that are changing the way politicians communicate with voters and businesses communicate with customers.
For marketers, these changes mean more direct interaction with customers and potential customers. By speaking and listening directly with the customer marketers are able to reduce the expense for public relations and advertising. Of course, these developments are worrying some in the pr and advertising industries, as well as the news media.
Many things about marketing communication won’t change, of course: you still need to have something to say. And the best way to apply all these technologies is still within a business niche. With that said, here are some of the other ways communication is changing:
1. Podcasting is the hottest idea on the internet. Starting in 2004, people began downloading homebrewed radio shows to their iPods. So instead of “broadcasts” they’re “podcasts”. Unlike streaming audio, podcasts require the file to be downloaded. The advantage of podcasts versus streaming is that you can take it with you when you’re not on the net. The disadvantage is that streaming audio is much easier for a customer to play at his or her computer. The solution is to do both – create an audio file for streaming, and an mp3 for podcasting. The same recording can be used for both.
2. A vlog is a video blog. Unlike podcasting, vlogging can refer to either streaming video or downloadable shows. Combined with the rapid development of internet video delivery, vlogging seems poised to take off. As with audio, you can prepare your video file in both streaming and downloadable formats. Also like audio, you can begin with very low-cost tools and work your way up to full blown professional equipment. Remember that people like good production quality, but they like watching something interesting even more.
3. Wikis are websites that are editable by the site users. Content becomes part of a dialogue among the users, instead of something fixed. This interaction can build strong communities, and produce large sites with enormous information. Up until recently, wikis have been difficult to use, and limited to techs. New approaches to wikis are making them easier to use, and reinforcing the next trend:
4. Social software. Community sites that encourage sharing and conversation are springing up in many areas. Photography and music have been drivers of this trend, in addition to political activism. Interaction builds community, and community is where the market is.
5. Almost all of these tools involve RSS, a technology for feeding information to people who want it. Unlike email, which is “pushed” by the sender, rss feeds have to be “pulled” by the user. While still not completely mainstream, rss is a rapidly growing delivery system.
For the small marketer, the price of reaching customers directly has dropped. Large corporations, though, are picking up on these technologies rapidly. To truly gain an edge, the small business person needs to develop a strategy for these channels before the big companies figure them out.