Adrian GoodsellBy Adrian Goodsell

 

I’m a big fan of Paul Adams (@padday).

He’s probably best known as the guy who laid the foundations for Google+ then upped and left before Circles launched to work on Facebook’s advertising platform. I’ve been following his blog for some time now and I’m usually given lots of food for thought by his posts.

His recent thinking around, and presentation of, the idea of ‘many lightweight interactions over time’ as the future of advertising resonated with me deeply. I strongly urge a read.

We’ve been looking at different ways of trying to understand the consumer journey for some time at STEAK and the picture we inevitably end up with is hugely complex with different touchpoints across online, offline, paid, owned and earned… in fact across the whole spectrum of the information-rich world we live in today. It’s not simple stuff, however much we’d like it to be.

We’ve been fans of McKinsey’s model of the consumer journey for a while now precisely because it’s disrupted older, simpler (more convenient) models. These models are now ill-equipped to deal with a media and communications landscape that has evolved so rapidly over the last seven years that it is now unrecognisably futuristic (in 2005 we may have had Google search but we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, Androids, iPads, Spotify… and we certainly didn’t have Google+ or Pinterest). It’s certainly not perfect but it does help to map some kind of journey out of the chaos.

‘Many-lightweight-interactions-over-time’ thinking immediately throws up fundamental questions around where the consumer journey actually begins and when it ends (if ever?). It calls into question our previous notions of customer consideration sets and undermines the easy assumption of customer loyalty. It urges brands to be more human, more social in their approach. That said, it is talking specifically about “advertising” – or demand generation – rather than direct marketing – demand harvesting.

As we move through the customer journey (and to my mind it remains a journey however complicated, haphazard and out of our control it gets) it seems to me that the ‘many-lightweight-interactions-over-time’ approach continues to hold up.

You must be there, visible when people search on Google (or Bing) for obscure long tail terms, making life easy and simple for your prospects – another lightweight interaction. Once you’ve converted a customer, CRM is the where the lightweight interaction continues. Social media used to drive loyalty remains a huge opportunity in the social space. So is this CRM or is it actually still advertising (or are they more and more becoming the same thing)? Can you really have your customer services team doing the advertising? Once you’ve built demonstrable loyalty there is even a small place for heavyweight interactions.

This brings me finally on to why social media ROI is still so difficult to measure fully. We want social media marketing to be as straightforward as search; we want an instant number, a size of opportunity and hard figures that we can translate directly into money. We want to isolate demand, to focus on a small part of the journey. We want things to be simpler. We want to go back to 2005.

There are lots of metrics that we can measure in the social space and across the whole consumer journey, but it’s not easy adjusting to a new model of thinking. It’s certainly not one-size-fits-all and it’s not an exact science quite yet.

Bearing in mind the fact that the one thing that hasn’t been invented since 2005 is a time machine, isn’t it worth us focusing on tackling the opportunities we have in front of us in 2012 and beyond?