An interesting panel discussion Connect, Engage, Influence, Integrate – the meaning of the new information economy for nowadays consumers and companies, organized by the digital media company Populis, took place on March 29th, 2012, in Milan. Panelists attending the event were Layla Pavone (Isobar/IAB Italia,) Giovanni Fantasia (COO, Populis,) Cristina Papini (Research & Analytics Sales Director, Nielsen,) Gianluca Camplone (Global Sales & Marketing Director, McKinsey,) Nicola Mattina (entrepreneur and blogger,) Emily Dent (Director, NM Incite UK.)
The discussion aimed to highlight the winning strategies for companies which are coping with today’s information economy. Nowadays new threats and opportunities for companies are created by new trends characterising this phase of the Internet Era.
A recent topic of interest is the continuously increasing amount of online content related to specific topics: for instance, in Italy, Internet users spend about 77% of their time on niche vertical blogs. Indeed, big companies are now considering to adopt approaches to advertising which take into account the importance of blogs: Giovanni Fantasia told that “If a marketing campaign is able to reach specific niches of consumers, it will be far more effective for the company than traditional advertising, since it is able to immediately hits their customers. On the other hand, it is necessary to implement a communication strategy that must be suitable for the specific customer which is reading the specific blog.”
In order to understand the importance for a companies to be present on online niches, one might consider that only in Italy 20 millions consumers read information on blogs before buying electronic goods, such as mobile phones and tablets: since only few people write relevant content, such as reviews and comments on products, and fewer are the influencers, having the capability of influencing a limited number of authoritative sources allows a company to have an effective impact on a large audience of consumers.
Another relevant aspect of today’s information economy is that the Internet is no more only a place where companies can broadcast and spread their messages and values, but also an useful instrument to listen to customers and fans: the Internet has become a place where to communicate in both the directions. Understanding the buzz means to understand which are the main drivers that influence customers, fans behavior and brand perception. Layla Pavone said: “Once companies had to organise costly focus groups in order to listen to their consumers, while nowadays listening to social media can fulfil the same need in a far more effective and efficient way.”
As highlighted by Emily Dent, “A common mistake for companies is to only think social media through a push perspective as places where to put their content, while it is also an opportunity to understand consumers and listen to what they want.” Indeed, some smart companies have already started to exploit the Internet in this perspective, implementing new instruments of listening: for instance, Barilla decided to bring again Tegolino into production after having listened to social networks; similarly did FIAT, while designing the new FIAT500.
However, companies cannot rely on the potential of social media without understand them. An interesting example of this was presented by Emily Dent who told the story of one of her clients, a big international company: “This company had just celebrated the achievement of 50 millions fans on their Facebook fan-page, when the survey we carried out for them showed that almost half of their Facebook fans were not even aware of the existence of that fan-page. This company was not engaging its Facebook fans!” therefore not exploiting the big potential of such a number of fans and likes. Nowadays, companies’ attention has to be focused on consumers’ engagement: indeed, big players are more and more interested in the engagement generated by the content of their pages than in the amount of content it-self.
Moreover, companies have to be aware of the fact that Facebook likers do not always coincide with consumers: indeed, in the business case cited by Emily Dent, the survey also showed that the most engaged likers out of the 50 millions rarely were good consumers of the product.
Companies have to innovate their value chain including social media, that are a powerful tools to exploit, but have to be carefully understood: for example, as stated by Giovanni Fantasia, “In countries as Germany the engineerial approach to management in use leads managers to be suspicious of social networks, which are instruments difficult to take over, therefore losing the opportunity to exploit the impressive power of social networks; on the other hand in countries as Brasil companies directly redirect their website to their Facebook fan page, often unaware of the risks they are facing of losing their brand identity.” Instead, the best approach for companies is to use social networks as instruments to generate traffic to their website: for instance, 30% of traffic on companies’ website in UK comes from Facebook.
Finally, another interesting topic raised in the panel discussion is that the continuous increase in the use of Internet from mobile and also tablet (a double digit increase ) is changing the mechanism of spreading information: blogs are the repository of information, social networks allow the conversation, while mobile and tablet help the sharing of information, because of their increasing importance in our life, since they fill up our downtime (like when we are travelling in the train or in the bus.) This trend is linked with the tendency to find more efficient ways to communicate: blogs are still the most important sources of information, but nowadays we post tweets and status containing links to that content.
As shown above, the Internet and the social media are continuously evolving entities, and their importance (also in the real economy) is growing faster and faster. Therefore for companies challenging the more and more competitive global economy it is fundamental to understand the importance of the Internet and to invest their resources to keep up-to-date and follow the new trends ruling today’s information economy.