When marketing first began there was a choice of smoke signals, Pony Express messengers, and Western Union telegrams to transmit messages to consumers. It was all very personal and direct, with each message created specifically for its intended recipient. The age of mass communication dawned as the printing press, radio, television, airplanes and other ever-faster ways of spreading the word crashed onto the scene. Marketers discovered they could craft a message targeted at a majority of the audience, blast it out over the various media outlets, and realize sure success.
That strategy began faltering in the not-so-distant past as the rise of social media saw a return to more personal forms of communication. Marketers first realized they could use tools like Sysomos and Radian6 to eavesdrop and listen in on consumer conversations. As Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media platforms grew they embarked on the process of social management by trying to build a following.
YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr and an ever-increasing variety of outlets soon returned control to the consumers. Over 80% of online content is now user-generated and it can be difficult for the marketer to get an "ad in edgewise." That's why we are entering the third phase of social marketing, which is collaborative. Marketers now need to develop deep relationships with their core consumers so they can easily inform and ideate with them and motivate people to advocate for their brand. This represents a fundamental paradigm shift from marketing at consumers to marketing with consumers.
Invite Consumers Into The Marketing Process
One company leading the way for the collaborative marketing revolution is Crowdtap. The New York-based firm is growing rapidly with its philosophy of helping clients unlock real value by partnering with consumers throughout the marketing process. CEO and founder Brandon Evans reports that sales for 2013 have already exceeded all of 2012, when they grew 500%. Crowdtap was recently named as one of the Forbes' 100 Most Promising Companies and is now working with over 40 Fortune 500 brands.
As an industry innovator, Crowdtap just published a thought-provoking white paper, The Collaborative Marketing Future: How Co-creation and Advocacy Will Drive Winning Companies. The paper creates a convincing case for the "Three As of Collaborative Marketing" - attract, assist, affiliate.
Crowdtap's paper includes five trends and five steps to building a collaborative brand, but the key takeaway is that consumers will provide brands with an endless amount of ideas, insights and content when given the opportunity. They are then willing to become staunch advocates for the product. Crowdtap client, Post Foods, uses the collaborative approach to great effect with its market research team. Emily Stern, Integrated Insights and Strategy, states that "Through collaborative marketing we are able to form a connection with passionate consumers who really want to get involved in how their favorite brands evolve. By doing so, we hope to grow consumer satisfaction and, ultimately, strengthen brand loyalty. We're fortunate to have a strong partnership with Crowdtap that enables us to do exactly that while generating real-time, actionable insights."
Iskra Dobreva, Social Media Strategist at Verizon, adds that, "Developing deep relationships with consumer advocates has become an increasingly important way for us to build loyalty and gain new customers. Over the past six months we have used the Crowdtap platform to help us scale these relationships and their impact."
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was once famously quoted as saying that "A more open and connected world will help create...more authentic businesses and better products and services." That vision is already being realized, and its name is collaborative marketing.