As a fully signed up follower to the only way is digital, several clients and people I have interviewed have challenged this view recently, without their knowledge.
If you had asked me where I thought you should concentrate your budget and time, I would have said, digital, without a second thought. Now, I would still say digital but with a proviso, ie. that social strategy works best when fully integrated with real life, real people and real time.
When you take a step back, it’s obvious; digital and especially social media, despite its virtual existence, has to have its foundation in reality or it simply doesn’t resonate.
We can tweet away to our hearts’ content, post on Facebook and upload videos to Vine and YouTube and images to Instagram and even continually update our websites but if they have no grounding in real life, they hold no value.
My first job was in journalism and I was taught it’s the people who ‘sell’ the story, when my job at dealer group H.R. Owen centred around publishing customer newsletters and magazines, I did not waver from the view – people are much more interesting than the product, despite now writing from a commercial perspective. Ask any automotive sales professional what they consider to be the single most important factor in the car sales process and I am confident each and every one will say ‘people buy people’. I am sure it is the same in any industry. The product is just a part of the buying decision but the people who sell it are often the deciding factor.
So how does that relate to digital marketing and social platforms?
People are interested in people. We are and always have been social beings.Take that to the next step and digital marketing content must feature people, personalities and real scenarios which both prospects and customers can relate to and are therefore more likely to engage with, comment on and share. But in order to cultivate such ‘real’ material for digital use, the business must be active in the ‘real’ world. It means stepping outside of the somewhat safe digital cocoon and being involved in the local community from fundraising to sponsorship of sporting teams and taking part in the likes of village fetes and entering teams in local golfing tournaments and 10k races.
One of my clients is a staunch believer in forging relationships with the local community to the point that practically every week in June and July, her business was involved in a local golf tournament, many of which were raising funds for charity. In an interview with a CEO of one of the biggest automotive retail groups in the UK, he said there was a direct correlation between the most successful dealerships in the group and their involvement with the local community.
In order to be successful with your digital marketing strategy, you need to get real. Get out there, get involved and get active. The more you take part in your local community, the more material you will have for content on your Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, website and blogs. Crucially, that content will feature real people in real situations about the things that really matter in your locality. Those real people are more likely to become real customers and even ambassadors for your business.