Social media and digital networking aren’t new by any stretch of the imagination. Facebook, for example, recently reached the lofty heights of its fifth birthday, while Friends Reunited was conceived a decade ago and its peak is a distant memory.
However, as a result of the stratospheric rise of Twitter in the last year (despite it being launched in 2006), social networking has forged its space and become the latest marketing currency.
This widespread awareness has impacted marketers directly, not only with regards to integrating this “new” channel into their existing armoury, but also in terms of dialogue.
Now more than ever organisations have the ability to listen, rather than just talk at their customer. Consumers have had choice for a long time, but they are increasingly being given a voice too – an empowering combination.
This means marketers can take the temperature of their brands in real time, simply by logging on to Twitter, You Tube et al and using the search function. The days of waiting four months for a campaign to be evaluated are now extinct.
Social media, however, has impacted more than just channel management and customer voice. It has prompted consumers to become their own data managers – and very sophisticated ones too.
As individuals sign up to more networks, groups and log-in required websites, and store greater volumes of digital collateral such as photographs, music files, videos, emails and ebook libraries, their digital administration has rocketed.
This in part has led to the creation of Vendor Relationship Management (VRM). In short this is a version of CRM, but turned round to the customer perspective – they now get to manage their suppliers.
VRM will be fundamental for us as an industry to keep an eye on this emerging tool as it has the potential to change how the direct marketing sector operates.
But back to consumers as data managers.
This trend has resulted in increased customer awareness of their data and its value and in turn a rise in understanding of marketing and how it works.
This change coupled with growing data privacy issues means that anyone dealing with data MUST become whiter than white – or risk irrevocably damaging the marketing discipline.
In January, the DMA is launching its Data Seal Initiative, a standard straddling best practice and ISO27001.
It will be endorsed by the ISO and will help data practitioners prove their credentials. It is vital that the industry supports Data Seal because there are still too many dodgy operators, which reflects badly on the industry. Ultimately data security and customer enlightenment should drive bad practice out of our industry.
The media has also taken the discipline to heart. Seemingly you can’t read the newspaper or switch on the TV without being bombarded by social media stories – be it emerging trends, new networking groups, youth scandal, consumer exposés on corporate behaviour or brand commentary. This widespread awareness has meant that marketers have had to take notice.