Will successful marketers become conversation architects? This is the insightful analysis from David Armano in his current BusinessWeek column, titled "It's the Conversation Economy, Stupid."
Here are some excerpts:
"Marketers are finding themselves in an increasingly frantic race to get people talking about their brands. The desire to produce something "viral" is nearly ubiquitous in the marketing world. But it's unclear who exactly "consumers" are these days. We don't even know what that word means any more. Can consumers be producers? Yes. Can they be users? Yes. Can they be active participants, members of niche communities, or even critics capable of effectively mobilizing others? Yes, yes, and yes.
Therein lies the problem. A consumer can be any number of things—sometimes all at once. And that fact is driving marketers, businesspeople, and brand managers nuts. So what do we do? I propose we become conversation architects."
"It's the conversation economy, stupid. One of the engines that is driving "2.0" growth is the fact that communities are forming around popular social platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Ning, Twitter—the list goes on and on. These platforms facilitate conversation. Conversation leads to relationships and relationships lead to affinity.
Brand affinity, as companies such as Harley-Davidson (HOG) have proven, often drives communities to form around them. This is why anyone who plays a role in branding needs to become a conversation architect. Marketers, businesses, and designers must have an intimate understanding of how these platforms are evolving and influencing human behavior. There has to be an in-depth understanding of why some us of love to incorporate these services in our digital lives."
"Conversation architects move marketing beyond the idea of one-way messaging. Traditional marketing efforts were founded on this tried-and-true format and are still prevalent within the industry. Consider the example of a typical creative brief template, which usually says something like, "What are we trying to communicate?" Can you can see the old-world residue in the word "communicate"? It lacks the dimensions of experiencing something and having an ongoing two-way dialogue. "What are we trying to communicate?" implies a one-way conversation. Maybe we should ask ourselves: "How can we facilitate?"
"But is engaging people on their own blogs marketing? If you think of marketing as facilitation as opposed to communication, it is. My background is in design, and I like to think that at the core, design is about facilitation. We designers should stop talking and start designing conversations. We should convert from marketers and information architects to conversation architects. Information is a one-way street, conversation isn't.
The same goes for businesspeople—the new consumer class that can be anything and everything at once is looking for meaningful dialogue. Some brands and businesses are going out of their way to provide this. Some are going through the motions. And some are doing business as usual. Which camp do you fall in?"
I could write endless columns about this article, as it touches on many important parts of the evolving marketing landscape.
At this point I just want to focus on one point that really resonates with me:
"Marketers, businesses, and designers must have an intimate understanding of how these platforms are evolving and influencing human behavior. There has to be an in-depth understanding of why some us of love to incorporate these services in our digital lives."I've seen too many marketers talking about and even recommending marketing on sites or platforms they've never used. How can you recommend being on Second Life, if you've never spend an afternoon as an avatar flying around the virtual world? How can you intelligently talk about blogs if you've never commented on one or even wrote your own blog? How can you recommend utilizing YouTube, Digg, Twitter, etc. if you've never used the service?
And, if you're in the more advanced group that does their due diligence, you have to work even harder because you still need to understand why your consumers utilize the services. What does Twitter do that AIM doesn't? Why YouTube and not Revver? Or why YouTube and Revver?
It's easy to put all these new services down as fads or hype them as the new revolution. As long as you never used and tried to understand them, you have no leg to stand on.