[TED Talk - Rory Sutherland - 16.39]
The Web enables us to interact with people - and brands - at the level of closeness or distance of our own choosing. It's not about achieving blanket intimacy with all customers. It's about giving people the option to calibrate their level of engagement - or distance with you and your brand. This was my number one insight from watching the intelligent and highly conversational talk with Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy Group.
Some products or services warrant a higher level of engagement than others. Take for example the Olympus story we discussed with Edward Boches yesterday. For that kind of product, it's smart to use social media as a set of tools that complement the technical specs on your Web site and allow people to talk with each other - fans of the same product, professionals sharing a common interest, people looking to solve the same kind of problem.
Twitter, for example, is a great tool for sharing kudos about others without actually needing to look them in the eye, just the avatar when they @reply. The digital media social normatives - spoken and unspoken - determine the perceived value of gestures. "Likes" on Facebook are low impact ways to signal approval. A handy comment box allows your fans and friend to take the next step and become more involved.
There are times when it would be much easier if companies and brands - like hotels and airlines to name two - remembered our preferences and we didn't have to talk to a person for routine transactions, like getting a key to the room or browsing fares and itineraries. If a guest has allergies, the digital profile should signal that when the guest checks in and room service can act upon the information. An online system indeed won't get upset when you take hours or days to make up your mind.
The point Sutherland makes - persuasively - is that technology can help people with making choices. Through interface and architecture, we can be persuaded to choose what is available (vs. what isn't). Which brings us back to the conversation on marketing as context building.
Much of communication is contextual.
Take a look at your products and services and then look at what your current advertising is saying. Is there opportunity to design a conversation that:
a) extends the interaction to help change perception, as in the train example at the beginning of Sutherland's TED Talk;
b) gives people a way to give badge value to what you have and share it with others. I'm remembering the T-Mobile campaign as an example of shared experience. Can your brand design this kind of conversation?
Social media is changing the interface. Are you giving people a way to tell you what intangible or preceived value you provide?