Hey, brand!! Exponential technologies and their impact on our power to influence
“The room was fine. The location was excellent. But we had been told it was for six people and there were only beds for four. And there were only enough cups for two. I am going to write to them so that this can be corrected for the next client.” This was what my dear friend Alejandro told me when asked about his visit to Lima. Many of us, or people close to us, have had similar experiences with a service or product in any kind of industry where we have decided to “talk to the brand”. Not only in negative situations. Following positive situations, we often contact the brand to congratulate or thank them when we have been pleasantly surprised.
Let’s break down Alejandro’s comment:
1) “The room was fine. The location was excellent.” Recognition of a positive circumstance.
2) “We had been told it was for six people and there were only beds for four. And there were only enough cups for two.” Recognition of a negative circumstance.
3) “I am going to write to them.” Proactive communication attitude.
4) “So that this can be corrected.” Certainty of being heard.
5) “For the next client.” Solidarity with others.
“Every time a client “talks to the brand”, their comments have an enormous potential for amplification, not so much because of the number of communication channels is multiplied by the digital environment and exponential technologies, but due to their credibility”
Just like Alejandro’s comment, every time a client “talks to the brand”, their comments have an enormous potential for amplification, not so much because of the number of communication channels is multiplied by the digital environment and exponential technologies, but due to their credibility. They are comments with high credentials for achieving credibility:
a) They transmit objectivity, because they recognize both positive and negative circumstances, so generate little doubt for accepting a minimum common denominator of objectivity. And on the way this objectivity is backed up with comments posted by other clients, such as “The same thing happened to me”.
b) They stem from the client, not the brand, supported by an inherent conviction that “I must do it”, backed by two things: “They will listen to me” and “I don’t want it to happen to anyone else”.
c) There is a legitimate altruism in that “social responsibility” approach, thinking about helping someone else to choose better, which feeds back into proactive communication from clients.
Alejandro’s comment and others like him are not fortuitous. It is a radical change in communication between people and brands that has occurred worldwide, accelerated by the new technological disrupters, and brands are not prepared for it.
Brands talk to people. We present our new product or service. We explain it to them. We try to attract them by highlighting our attributes, investing heavily in advertising, creative efforts that win awards and recognition in the industry. We modernize and shift from mass marketing to direct marketing and, with the digital environment and social networks, we have even moved on to “mass personalization” in communication. We use influencers with more than 30,000 followers so that our message is more digestible. We have sound professional teams to prepare the message to be given to clients and a hefty economic budget. We have a clear brand client communication strategy.
However, with Alejandro we see that the reality is not quite like that, it is more complex.Clients have now decided to talk to brands. In other words, there is now a client-brand communication route. According to the IAB annual study of social networks 2017, in the Spanish market 83 % of social network users follow a brand. Of those, 39 % declare that they do so intensely. 16 % do so to comment on products and 12 % to contact customer services. On the other hand, 25 % of social network users declare that they trust a brand with a profile on social networks much more than one that doesn’t. This has a simple explanation: they can contact those brands easily and rapidly. We will probably find similar information in all markets because it is a global trend. These figures show that the exponential growth of clients talking to brands due to the digital environment really exists.
“Digital interaction is a radical change in communication between people and brands that has occurred worldwide, accelerated by the new technological disrupters”
We already know this. What we don’t know is that those clients who talk to us are “microinfluencers”, with fewer followers (300-5,000) but a much greater credibility than influencers. Experience shows that influencers have a rate of interaction with followers of 2 %, compared with over 40 % in micro-influencers. This is due to the degree of closeness, contact and trust that exists between the followers and the micro influencer. In this case, they do not feel like “followers”, but “friends”. And we believe our friends.
The most serious point is that we are all microinfluencers to an ever greater extent. And we have all decided to talk to the bands. And we do so, sometimes privately but most often publicly, by rating them, posting comments or through social networks. Consequently, the impact on the market of micro-influencers talking to brands is exponential and will become more and more so, especially with the collaboration of technologies such as artificial intelligence, for example. There is also a degree of heroic effect, since we do this out of social solidarity, so that others have more information to make their choice. Moreover, there is a clear halo of objectivity, which is strongly questioned in advertising.
The question that arises now is: who is going to reply to Alejandro? The marketing manager or a communications student doing an internship? Are we aware of the effect of inverse communication and the exponential power of micro-influencers? And if we are, do we set aside enough funds in the budget to ensure the professional quality of the team handling that conversation?
I am sure, dear reader, that at present some of us will say yes and others will say no to these questions. What I can assure you is that companies that have been digital since they came into being provided these teams from the outset with top professionals, clear protocols and sufficient levels of empowerment and autonomy, while companies that are undergoing a digital transformation process are not yet fully convinced and have it on the back burner as a permanent conversation and unfinished work. They do not dare yet.
“Companies that have been digital since they came into being provided these teams from the outset with top professionals, clear protocols and sufficient levels of empowerment and autonomy”
In this environment of inverse communication and objective, altruistic micro-influencers with an exponential amplifier of messages, brands that are experts in answering them with all the tools available to them will win the market over those who are experts in (just) talking to them. Because the room for disappointing a client has disappeared and because the technological disruption that propelled this change in the power of influence of any citizen some time ago is just the beginning of the revolution we are starting to see with the impact of exponential technologies on our daily lives.