Dialogue: The important of conversation for brands on social media

 

Brands are only beginning to realise the importance of conversing with their consumers online. To give an indication of just how important it is, 83% of people say that they are more likely to make a purchase if they have had positive social media interaction with a business. In addition to this, auto-posting to Facebook decreases the likes and comments a post will receive by 70% on average. If you only using generic content, you could be missing out hugely on potential business. In order not to miss out on these opportunities, engaging in conversation with your consumers is an absolute must in today’s world.

 

Conversation is important for many reasons.  Marketing used to be more personal as many sales took place on a one-to-one basis; however, mass marketing removed this individual aspect, causing businesses to be out of touch with the consumer. This was often in the form of developing specific, business related jargon that the everyday person would not understand.

 

Social media allowed for mass marketing as it enabled businesses to push content but this changed as people realised that they could reply and engage with the brand on these platforms. This has made it essential that brands respond to this communication to capitalise on conversing with customers.

 

Conversation is needed to capitalise on the use of social media primarily because it lends an authenticity to your brand that is almost impossible to achieve by any other means. Conversation is undeniably authentic as our ability to edit speech in real time is limited. It means that they have to respond to what you say and do not have the time to go through several drafts of a response. Whether this is in face-to-face conversations or through an instant messenger on a social platform, it does not allow a brand to hide behind a façade of media that it pushes. It lends a human side to your business as it ceases to be a corporation pushing content and becomes a partner in conversation. The value of this transition cannot be underestimated.

 

It may, at the outset, be hard to see how a business can actually engage in conversations with consumers without is being forced or potentially unwelcome. One of the best ways to initiate this is to respond to their interactions with your content. Respond to their comments, questions and complaints. Starting a conversation in this way shows that, as a brand, you are listening and a conversation cannot happen without this element.

 

To be sure that what you are saying to your consumers is understandable, make sure that you use language that they are likely to understand and, even better, use themselves. The use of company jargon that was built up with mass marketing has broken down now as brands are adopting the language of their consumers. Target, for example, realised that consumers were using the term ‘(to go for a) Target run’ and began to use the term in their own messages. Deploying the language of consumers in this way is far more likely to make them think that they are making a genuine connection with your brand.

 

With 83% of people more likely to purchase from your brand following positive digital interaction, conversation cannot be ignored and represents both a step forward and a step back in the marketing world. It is a step forward for how businesses use social media to engage with their audience. Conversely, it appears to be making a step back as mass marketing is dropped in favour of a far more individual approach. Given the potential to convert on social platforms, it is a facet of social media marketing that businesses cannot afford to neglect.

VR here, VR there, VR everywhere.

 

When you think about Virtual Reality (VR), you probably think of people using a headset to either play games or immerse themselves in a digital world and do not think of it as a marketing tool. Yet, since its inception, the VR industry has grown and is currently estimated to be worth around $7 billion. A report by Greenlight Insights estimates that, by 2025, it could be achieving revenues of nearly $75 billion. VR is currently only used by a small few but, if these figures are correct, VR is going to spread far beyond its current audience and will have applications in many areas of life, including digital marketing.

 

For the less technologically savvy, VR immerses the user in a virtual environment. This is predominantly done through the use of a headset that gives the user the impression that they are in a different place or setting. The headset has a screen at the front that comprises the user’s entire field of vision. When they turn their head, for example, the image shown to them will follow their motion, giving them an immersive experience.

 

This is not to be confused with augmented reality or AR. This is where overlays are added to what is already there such as with the app Pokémon Go the makes the Pokémon appear as if it were there or the IKEA Place app that allows you to view what furniture might look like in your home. AR adds to the existing environment whereas VR creates a whole new reality.

 

VR has been heavily invested in with many large technology companies developing their own version of it. Google has Cardboard, Facebook has Oculus, Samsung has Gear, the list goes on. With all of the effort being poured into this technology, it is likely that it will expand in the future to become more of an everyday item as its cost falls.

 

VR means that content can be experienced in a new way, allowing a creative, dynamic, storytelling approach that causes a response in the audience far superior to that of a static image or even a video. For example, in a study by YuMe and Nielsen, it was discovered that VR content elicited a 27% higher emotional engagement than the same content in 2D and a 17% higher emotional engagements than the same content in a 3D video. This is of significance to marketing as it shows that higher engagement can be guaranteed by the format of your content or, in other words, producing VR content will result in greater emotional engagement in your brand.

 

The possible benefits of using VR in marketing are not just hinted at by theoretical studies. There are brands like Marriott, Destination British Columbia and Thomas Cook that have invested in VR marketing and have produced excellent results – British Columbia had an increase of 5% in visitors after releasing their Great Bear Rainforest VR experience; Marriott 51% of people saying they wished they stayed with them more often after their VR Room Service; Thomas Cook had a 40% ROI and an 190% increase in NYC excursions after offering VR flyover of the Manhattan Skyline.

 

VR can also be made to include more traditional aspects of marketing such as a call to action. For example, a VR experience could include, at the end, a call to action box that the viewer could look at for a set period of time to follow the link. The technology would be able to track the user’s eye movement accordingly. This would make the marketing more direct, rather than just hoping that the content will make a lasting impression. It can actually be made so that it leads somewhere. The heightened emotional response and the immediate call to action could make VR an extremely powerful marketing tool.

 

It is, however, not all good news. At the moment, VR remains a fairly expensive technology that requires its own content. The content made for it cannot be very effectively transposed to other mediums in the way that, say, an image could. At the moment, VR marketing is a very expensive way to reach an audience but, as the technology develops, those costs are sure to go down.

 

Both the study and the examples show the power to VR to transform digital marketing. It will doubtless happen but we are a few years off seeing its true power in the field of marketing. It is currently showing itself to be very promising and, with the effort that companies are putting into its development, it is likely that the technology will become more affordable leading to it becoming a standard marketing platform in the future.

Voice recognition is fast becoming a useful tool for mobile advertisers. Allowing for instant information at your command, voice recognition has improved massively in a short space of time. 41 percent of adults talk to their phone every day. While speech search is yet to truly dominate, it’s expected that by 2019, the voice recognition market will be a $601 million industry.

So, the way we interact with our devices is transitioning away from the keyboard and the touch screen, driven by this ever-growing need for fast answers. Google voice search helps deliver the content to users as quickly possible, by generating more direct answers. It’s still very much early days for the software, but it can only get better. Google reported word error rates of just 8 percent in 2015, an improvement from rates of 25 percent a few years prior.

With the rise of voice recognition, this means that marketers must learn to structure their content around not only key words, but conversational language. Searchers will be using key words that are imbedded with more natural, free-flowing language, and the searches are likely to be question-based. It could mean big changes for SEO and marketers will have to think carefully about what types of questions potential customers are asking about the industry.

It’s increasingly important that brands update their keywords to compensate for local, common questions relevant to their company, as well as optimising content for voice searches. Marketers should tailor messages to predict the behaviour and questions of the user. The more brands think about customer speech and intent, the better prepared they will be for the rise of voice recognition. It presents exciting possibilities for marketers, like the ability to create personalised ads where people talk directly to the ad, which would reduce the length of the customer journey.

In spite of the exciting prospects, voice recognition could cause certain problems for marketers. For example, if a person runs out of their favourite food, they’ll ask their device to order more and it will likely be from the same place as before. This is a problem for marketers, as brands obviously want to attract more customers. Naturally, customers will re-order the product from the same place they always purchase from, without looking at other options. Of course, marketers could place ads into the voice search, but this would be disruptive for the customer, particularly in the age of ad-blocking.


Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine that voice recognition won’t have a massive impact on marketing. There are some challenges brands will need to overcome, but voice recognition could pave the way for a truly personalised customer experience.

Brands have long looked to please loyal followers, and entice new business, by adding a personalised touch to their ad campaigns. Whether through splashing the names of consumers across Coke cans, or starting social media conversations with followers, the element of real human interaction and direct engagement with consumers evokes strong feelings of respect and loyalty.

But now interactive ads are getting even more personal, giving users the opportunity to star in their very own personalised ads.

The Fisherman’s Friend has been making waves in the ad world recently having launched the first ever interactive Twitter video. Their Never be Without a Friend campaign sees the lozenges company take your Twitter profile, including your photos, and import them into the ad. You can watch as the fisherman scrolls through your very own Twitter feed and watch him gaze at photos of you pinned to the wall of his boat. And afterwards he continues to engage with you, tweeting from his individual profile about how much you were missed on the boat today etc. This is revolutionary in that the brand is really taking you on this journey in an immersive, highly personalised way. In making you an integral part of the narrative, you are directly engaging with the brand through a viewing experience like no other.

So as the technology develops, what could the future hold for savvy advertisers, keen to take advantage of the raft of eager starlets waiting in the wings for their starring role?

Interactive video has huge potential for brands to more effectively engage with their consumers and many have experimented with it over the past ten years. The concept of interactive video and its technological capabilities has been around for a while. But it is only in recent years that brands have really taken advantage of it, allowing viewers to manipulate the narrative of a video ad, extending or altering outcomes to suit their preferences or clicking through to different videos. Many of these ads have made a big impact in what has become a saturated online video market.

As social media, streaming TV and YouTube have created an insatiable thirst for on-demand media consumption, the ability to control the trajectory of a video ad suits the soundbite generation. Interactive video ads can add a layer of engagement and excitement missing on other channels in a landscape filled with users with rapidly decreasing attention spans. As this 2014 Google study states, users today want to ‘actively engage, deciding if, when, where and how they interact with brands’.

The correction fluid company Tipp-Ex were relative pioneers of the what happens next? You decide interactive video with their now inactive ‘Hunter Shoots a Bear’ campaign from 2010. Clicking on how you wanted to resolve the story in-turn led users to the main profile page of the brand and a series of alternate endings. The ad has been viewed over 22 million times to-date.

This Coca-Cola ad is another effective example of interactivity, giving the user the ability to dictate the point-of-view they experience. The varying ups and downs of a mother/daughter relationship can be witnessed from either perspective, and finally from the perspective of a grandchild. The ad inspires multiple views, to fully immerse yourself in each character’s narrative and this subsequently reaffirms the brand’s message. The interactive quality here empowers the user to make their own decisions about what they want to see and when, also teasing them to click again. This empowerment lends itself to clothing brands too, with users able to fully engage with and manipulate the creative process and ultimate outcomes themselves. In this 2011 ad from Madewell users select which garments, styles and accessories the models will wear in limited five-second slots, meaning gratification is relatively fast. Viewers also stick with the ad to view the final product they have created.

Hyper-localising ads and targeting distinct groups is an area also developing. Some clothing brands, for example, are now using the capability to dictate ads delivered to certain geographical areas depending on the weather. UK clothing brand Very for example are now advertising, on mobile, based on meteorology.

As the use of quizzes, championed by the likes of buzzfeed, infographics and newsletters to accompany a brand’s message, continue to infiltrate the industry advertisers agree that “The way we’ve told stories about our brands and products is changing, even if the stories themselves are not”.

Holographic video might still seem like the stuff of Star Wars to many, but the advertising industry is abuzz with the potential that this technology holds and is already exploring how this can enhance brands.

With scientific developments, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, moving fast, many people believe holographic video has the power to break down the walls between technology and people. Immersing users within the digital world via a wearable see-through display unit, the HoloLens, and holographic video technology more generally, could change how we interact not only with brands, but with everything and everyone.

However, for the time being, holographic video display units and live events are the ideal experimenting ground for the technology.


The science behind holographic video is relatively complex; whereas rendering a 2D image into a hologram has been possible for a while, the ability to render video has hitherto been laborious and expensive. Now, researchers at a university in the US, have developed the technology that could make holographic video larger and cheaper. Science Daily explains, stating “It’s all about manipulating light. Three of the primary methods include: reflection, refraction and diffraction. In this case, diffraction is the key, and essentially enables lines — almost any type — to bend and filter light.” And with the 3D projection platform ‘Holocube’ meaning brands can easily and relatively inexpensively create holograms to showcase their products, the technology is becoming far more widespread.

American food brand Mondelez this summer launched a holographic ad campaign in supermarkets across the US. Through product endorsements with the American soccer league, the company beamed holograms of rotating footballs from supermarket shelves housing their products. The ability for brands to be able to create small-scale holograms in this way could ultimately change our interactions with products in such situations, with products literally leaping out at us.

On a larger scale, brands have been taking advantage of Holocube and hologram technology for a number of years. In 2013 Nike launched a 3-D holographic ad campaign on display boards around Amsterdam, with a rotating image of a new product seen on billboards across the city. And if Freddie Mercury or Elvis can be resurrected for live tours with their former bandmates, there is huge potential for brands to use this technology for live events, as exemplified through this Alexander McQueen show featuring a hologram of Kate Moss parading down the catwalk.

So with some predicting Microsoft’s HoloLens product will be rolled out in 2016, how will brands respond to more and more consumers interacting with holograms in their everyday lives, immersed in their own version of a digital world? But for now we can watch as brands bring their products to consumers in the most visceral way possible.

Projection mapping, or the projecting of 3D moving images onto buildings or in public spaces, has been used to awe-inspiring effect by advertisers over the past decade, or so. And what began as a form of guerrilla marketing has now been embraced by the mainstream. The transformation of any building or arena into scenes from any era, locality or situation has no-end of possibilities for savvy advertisers. From buildings seemingly being destroyed before your eyes, as seen in Samsung’s staggering use of the technology on a building in Amsterdam, to a basketball court transformed into a giant ball pool, there are endless ways to create breath-taking performances on an epic scale. When watching our pick of the best from around the world you might find yourself forgetting that they are all simply projections.

The first example of the potential for utilising this technology on a grand scale comes in the form of this 2011 Adidas campaign in Marseille. The theatricality and variety of the piece, from shadows appearing in the palace windows, to the creation of a sumo wrestling arena and the transformation of the building into a retro ghetto blaster, is staggering.

On a less epic, but equally impressive, scale several advertisers have used projection mapping in event spaces when launching new products. The technology lends itself to the automotive industry, as seen in this 2012 BMW Series 3 launch in Brisbane, with the ability to create a live sense of movement for those watching. The capability of easily being able to manipulate, distort and even change the colour of the product, here also drawing an ultraviolet outline around the car, is an invaluable tool for advertisers.

With very little to no impact on the buildings or objects themselves, no space seems to be off-limits, with Chinese authorities even authorising Porsche to transform Beijing’s Imperial palace into a motorway for the 911 50th anniversary celebrations in 2013. This provides the opportunity for iconic buildings to be reimagined by the public, as best exemplified in this Sydney Opera House performance in 2015.

And of course brands can easily bring to life symbols synonymous with them and their brand, marrying this media with their physical bases or stores. Ralph Lauren, for example, in 2010 used projection mapping to launch a team of polo players across their flagship Bond Street shop. The capability to combine this unique and powerful image with clear representations of their product (huge projections of models are seen parading on a virtual catwalk) is effective.

How the technology will become more interactive with the consumer and how brands can take advantage of this is an area many are keen to explore. Several car companies are already utilising interactive projection mapping tools to promote their products. As the technology keeps developing and the reality of the virtual images improves, the potential for how each industry can take advantage of it is exciting.


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