What is IP? Intellectual Property and Internet Protocol serve as the 1.0 and 2.0 versions of IP. As the world of digital and social media begin to unite, version 3.0 of IP will become Integration and Packaging.
Yes – while I am not a big fan of year beginning predictions, I am guilty of one myself. 2011 – the year that successful companies will provide integrated social media / digital solutions and features to their product/service offering. Agree or disagree? If you are in the later group and disagree, I’ll give one compelling example and one statistic to highlight why …
In 1993, Ty Warner, Inc. introduced what was soon to be a craze – Beanie Babies. These were loveable stuffed animals that not only captured the hearts of young consumers, but even adults were purchasing the stuffed animals looking to build a portfolio on the worth of some rare Beanie Baby offerings. The bubble burst … no surprise … did anyone really think stuffed animals were a sustainable market?
Well in 2005, Ganz was “foolish” enough to try to do so again. They introduced Webkinz. But Webkinz introduced a “secret code” with each little stuffed creature and integrated a digital strategy to their offering. This created an extremely strong engagement between brand and consumer. Webkinz reinvented Beanie Babies by positioning “the stuffed animal that comes alive online in Webkinz World.”
Now if a stuffed animal company can integrate offline and online world’s to produce great customer loyalty that also spawns advocate marketing, I think it is pretty safe to say that just about every product/service offering can be strengthened by a strategic digital presence.
Just how important is a digital online presence? Well for the first time ever, the average US online consumer is spending as much time online as he/she does watching TV offline. The ubiquity of anywhere-access will only increase online consumption and it is just a matter of time before time spent online significantly overtakes TV viewing. If the 1950s was the golden age of TV that changed our lives, then execution of IP 3.0 changes the way brands market to, retain, and incite advocate customers.
IP 3.0 Defined
Early in my blogging days, I talked about social media and the need to integrate it into the business operations. One of the first articles I ever wrote was “Before You Start with Social Media.” Six months later, Brian Solis offered some excellent insights into “Social Media Integration” in an article that appeared in Mashable. Social media must be integrated into business operations and I think in this past year, many companies took positive steps in the right direction to start to make this happen. Even though social media is generally accepted as a viable part of business, it is not time to claim success for social media evangelists. Social media needs to be integrated and packaged into the actual product/service offering. This is IP 3.0.
As online and social media lines blur, IP 3.0 is really about integrating and packaging an online strategy that promotes social marketing as part of the product/service definition. When we talk about online, MOBILE online must be included as well.
You want your audience to get emotional with your product/service and this means continually connecting your target audience with your brand – even after the sale. But this continuous connection needs to be meaningful and provide value to your customer. Value that is educational, informative, and/or entertaining. There needs to be a very compelling reason for the target audience to remain engaged with the brand.
IP 3.0 in Execution
The Integration and Packaging of online and social media into a company’s offering is very specific to the product/service, position, and target audience. There is no cookie-cutter approach, but here are attributes you need to set:
- Access points of information. Define how your customers will get and access continued information that is of value to them. Define this in terms of channels that they participate in as opposed to your own contrived “field of dreams” you build. Consider how the audience will connect – mobile access and anywhere, anytime access.
- Identify individual users, power users, and vocal users. Build the strongest relationships with this selected group. Give them special access to your brand and the people behind the brand. Work to convert them to advocates. While some might sarcastically call this marketing with OPM (other people’s money) (such as ex-CMO of Kodak Jeffrey Hazylett refers to) there is a strong sustainable value to the advocates if the brand anoints them as “special” in some recognized manner or gives them added benefits.
- Simplify registration. The biggest turn off is having to fill out online forms to get what you want – even if you really are interested in the content once registered. Use open connect registration. Use API enabled registration from leading social media sites (i.e. Facebook Connect, Twitter). Yes you want to collect data of your users to better market to them, but do this a little bit over time as they develop a deeper relationship with your brand. Make it simple as can be in the beginning.
- Plan sharing. Make sure there are multiple, easy ways for your brand and content to be shared. Think about placement of social connect buttons (or widgets) so that users can share with their friends in the various platforms they are members of (Facebook like, Twitter, FriendFeed, blog platforms, flickr, YouTube, Google Buzz, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.). Start by looking at a list on ShareThis.com or AddThis.com.
- Bookmark capabilities. Make it easy for users to bookmark (delicious, reddit, etc.) your online presence and return to specific URLs. Once again, check out ShareThis and AddThis.
There are a couple of other things you should consider:
- Monitor what is being said. There are no shortage of tools that allow you to capture mentions of your brand (or competition) online. There are free services such as Google Alerts, and SocialMention, and robust platforms such as Radian6 and Sysomos to do the work. (Check out the exhaustive social monitoring list.) Have a set policy on responding as you see required. Understand that you want good news to keep traveling and bad news to be nipped in the butt. (I previously wrote some “listening and responding” guidance in another article here.)
- Timing. Recognize timing is of the essence. News and information are available immediately. Be known for delivering timely information.
I am sure everyone has an opinion on companies doing it right and wrong. I think the enhanced product definition that Webkinz integrated and packaged in is about as good as it gets. If you had young kids or nieces/nephews a few years ago, I am sure you are aware of their success.
In 2011, I am positive we will see a number of great examples where social media is integrated and packaged into a product/service definition. The most important thing is to leverage a traditional go-to-market strategy that examines target audience, competition, defines position, and carves out your unique value. But to do so with complete understanding of the new customer environment … how they get information, share information, and develop relationships with brands. Do so and make digital and social media part of your product/service definition and marketing mix from the start – not an after thought. This, my friends is IP 3.0 and 2011 is the year of IP 3.0.
Make It Happen