Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Are You Stuck in the Loop? Develop Social Media and Content Strategies in Context of Past, Present and Future

Just went to see Looper.  If you haven't seen it and are hoping to soon, this post may be a mild spoiler alert - I won't give the ending but might give away some of the plot.  You will have to stop reading now and miss out on my golden nugget of an observation about how Looper relates to the impact of Social Media on your business.

In Looper, time travel has not yet been invented.  But it has been invented and abolished 40 years into the future.  As such, it is only used by mobsters. They use it to dispose of bodies.  Instead of burying them under the proverbial cement, they send them back in time to a specific location, and have employees called "Loopers" who are from the earlier time -  small time thugs who make a lot of money for each assignment.  The Loopers await the arrival of the body at a specific location and time and shoot them, and burn them leaving no evidence.  No trace is left of the victim (who may not yet be born so is it really a death?)

One day,  older versions of the loopers themselves start showing up to be killed by their younger selves.  This is called "closing the loop." (I could not figure out why they didn't give your old self to a different looper, but they always sent you yourself,  a danger of not examining data, interpreting it objectively, and realigning your process I suppose.)  When you "close your loop" you get a big payday and get to retire and just go live your life until you become that older self.  You are aware of when you will be killed because you remember being your younger self and killing your older self.

So our hero(s) Joe - played subtle and brilliant - by both Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (I love the diner scene between younger Joe and older Joe) - doesn't close his loop when he arrives.  The rest of the movie is a chase to basically kill himself while avoiding getting killed himself for failing the first time. 

But the real plot is about the dysfunctional choices he made in life and his career while "in the loop".  It also examines those moments where your choices can change everything, those few wake-up calls each of us is given to change the direction of our lives.  I kept wondering why he didn't prevent the future collision somewhere in his past.

It made me think about how in business we can get trapped in loops of dysfunction.  Our past dictates our future, our future traps us in our present. 

Data doesn't show us everything, but it can provide us a map. We have to ask our data questions - and these questions need to be contextual from multiple lenses.  The context needs to include questions about how the past and the future align in the present.  Instead of asking ourselves "Where does social media fit in the marcom mix or how does it contribute to the funnel" we should ask ourselves "What does our business look like now with social media as a way to amplify what we need to do? What is the new role of advertising? What is the new role of web? What is the new role of email?  What is the new role of support?" and most importantly "How does each role align in a new world?"

Keeping the Past in Perspective

Application to the present requires context.  Why do we do what we do?  What do we do that has value still?  What is the value to our customers?  How can we help to guide customers (problem solving content investigators) toward solutions for their problems?  What is inherently true?  What doesn't change while everything else evolves significantly? Why do we still exist?

For marketing communications, the answer is content.

Good content is good content - past, present and future - content should inform, educate, entertain, provoke and evoke.  It no longer should fight for attention from everyone. It should command attention from the right people.
Great content should be relevant and valuable to the intended demographic.  It should be presented in the best and fastest way for the intended absorber of the content.
Great marketing content should inspire an action and make a relationship available to build trust and for  nurturing.  Because great business is great relationships. Great marketing content is a map leading to a treasure.
Great marketers are people who build great relationships through content. This could not be a better time for great marketers because the tools are all available through web and social media to build excellent relationships through content.. Great relationships require trust.  Trust requires two-way communication.  Listening is critical in building trust and relationships.  Social Media provides the tools that support two-way conversations.

 New Social Media Tools Provide Challenges for the Present and Opportunities for the Future

Before smartphones,  I read anything available every down moment of the day. Cereal boxes, magazines in waiting rooms, newspapers strewn round coffee shops... When is the last time you did that?  When in a waiting room I am either laptop open or smartphone in hand catching up on twitter, facebook, googling movie times or searching for a new doctor with a shorter waiting time.

Digital content puts the content consumer in charge of everything he or she looks at.  It gives users immediate access to problem solving of every type.  Customers direct themselves using keywords. They have hundreds, thousands, millions, more options to connect. The content you are making available is just a tiny fraction of their options.

To compete in the present, you need to make every message you develop:

1. Findable
2. Obvious
3. Relevant
4. Specific
5. Helpful
6. Time Saving or Value Creating
7. Inspiring
8. Connected
9. Reactable

The savvy consumer's eyes have learned to avoid advertising.  Distaste flares when obvious copywritten catchy phrases assault them.  People seek content written by people, not by brands.   People have relationships with people.  The people they have relationships with may be part of a brand.  But it is the people that add up to the brand, not vice versa. A brand is a perception that occurs at the intersection between its products, partners, people and customers.  To do it well, you need to be there with more than just good content.  You need to be there ready to listen and build trust. 

To compete in the future, you need to be ready to create a relationship with your customers.

You can do this with a strong content, empowered people and social media strategy that is about your people developing relationships with people who are customers, future customers, influencers and sometimes innocent bystanders in a way that is reflective of your brand.

Do you need help making your content stand above the crowd or building a social media strategy?  I know just the person who can help.  Me!  You can view my LinkedIn profile here, or email me at contentoptimization@gmail.com.

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