A Self Renewing Cycle

Recently, I walked along a trail to take in the fresh spring air, and paused along the way to listen to the mellifluous voices of a stream.  The voices of the stream told a compelling story, not conceptually wrought, but profound.  The story was of rain falling from the sky, flowing swiftly downstream to be absorbed into plants,  consumed by creatures and passed from them to evaporate and flow downstream once again – all one beginningless, endless cycle.

Like water, our own actions and efforts influence others downstream, and they eventually come back to us. Humanity’s interconnectedness is a profound truth, one we experience throughout our lives in myriad ways.  Still, our minds may entertain the erroneous suggestion that that we function alone, separated from humanity.

Tapping into The Liquid Cycle of Social Media

For those of us involved in social media, the truth of the interconnectedness of information hits home every time we cull content from numerous sources,  post it to our blogs and twitter feeds, only to see it take off in the form of retweets, links and reblogging to an ever widening audience. The essence of liquid content is that it flows, adopting to different media and channels,  tying together seemingly disparate, yet interlinked individuals in a symphony of touchpoints.Liquid content is also a self renewing resource. Jeff Bullas defines “liquid content” as:

Content so contagious that it cannot be controlled –  This is the purpose of content excellence.

Jay Baer writes that liquid content creates “an information annuity that keeps giving.”  Or, as Jeff himself puts it, it “works 24/7 while you sleep, year in and year out…creating “loyal raving fans and followers that money cannot buy,” and building relationships.

In today’s wired social context, content must be able to flow with the natural tides of information to become part of a larger social dialog.  Gone is the day of putting out a static, standalone message and hoping that people will pause to consider and possibly act on it. People today increasingly rely on social networks, not ads, to form their impressions of our brands and our products. While ads can increase exposures, in the avalanche of information today, consumers can give limited attention to ads, and it takes multiple impressions for the ad to garner attention, resonate and convey meaning, and suggest a call to action.  Large companies with massive advertising budgets can afford to maximize the number of media exposures, but even they are grasping the great power of social media and liquid content.

The More Liquid the Content, the More Trusted the Brand

Multiple sources enhance credibility. As shown by the 2009 Edelman Trust Barameter,  people who hear something about your company 3 to 5 times are 60% more likely to purchase. The more times you appear on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn and other social media, and that other blogs and websites link to your content,  the more trusted you become and the more likely people are to purchase your product.

Social Proof Drives Purchases

When you are mentioned by others, you become more trusted.  This is the psychological phenomenon of social proof, also known as informational social influence, where people assume the actions of others reflect correct behavior for a given situation. Multiple surveys show that Gen Y in particular, as the most linked generation, are more likely to act on the advice of friends or peers, and to be influenced by online reviews.  Learning from friends via social networks is likely the “killer app” of social proof in terms of  impact, and the potential to grow virally.  Here are some startling examples:

  • Friends inviting friends to play through Facebook and other social networks helped Zynga grow from 3 million to 41 million average daily users in just one year, from 2008 to 2009.
  • A recent Babycenter study showed moms rely on the wisdom of their friends 67% more than average shoppers; and on social media 243% more than the general population.

Additionally, customers referred by friends:

  • Have a 2 times higher estimated lifetime value than customers from all other channels at One Kings Lane;
  • Have a 75% higher conversion than renters from other marketing channels at Rent the Runway;
  • Make their first purchase after joining twice as quickly than referrals from other channels at Trendyol;
  • Are better contributors – thosee who see content from their friends on TripAdvisor contribute personal content to the site at 2x the rate of others, and are 20% more engaged than other users.

Case Studies: Liquid and Linked

According to Wendy Clark, Coca-Cola’s head of integrated marketing and communications, in her keynote remarks at the 2012 Ad Age Digital Conference, brands can’t buy their way to greatness any more. “Consumers increasingly control marketing conversations, especially in the digital space, Ms. Clark said, “so it’s up to marketers to make sure consumers want to talk about them. ” Coke has embraced a “liquid and linked” approach to cross-media marketing.  The approach must be “liquid” because the market landscape is constantly changing, and “linked” because no matter which media are used, all brand messages should adhere to one overall strategy.

A lofty goal: In 2009, the company announced its intent to double its revenue by 2020 — which means serving 3 billion Coca-Cola products a day, up from 1.7 billion today, a highly ambitious goal even for one of the the world’s biggest and most recognizable brands. Coca-Cola accordingly has committed to working all types of media -paid, earned, owned and shared – for the highest possible yields. Coca-Cola already has the largest fan page on Facebook, with more than 24 million likes. The fascinating video clips included here show how Coca Cola’s Liquid and Linked Initiative will change their marketing processes and strategies.

A strategic direction: Through Liquid and Linked content, Coca Cola intends to accomplish these three goals:

  • Leverage existing consumer behaviors
  • Develop ideas where the message cannot be separated from the technology (provoking connections)
  • Develop deeper emotional connections through storytelling (as the Gulf GT mobile I-phone app has done)

Examples follow, courtesy of Sprout:

Leveraging Existing Consumer Behaviors – Golf GTI

Volkswagen, identying its target customer as tech-savvy and engaged in social networking spent just $500,000 to launch the Real Racing GTI App, tapping into the natural enthusiasm of gamers who not only love playing, but also love sharing their results with other gamers and through social media.  Real Racing GTI results after a week were:

  • More than one million downloads GTI requests from more than 40,000 consumers
  • The #1 free app ranking in 35 countries

Provoking Conversations – Tipp-EX

Coca-Cola aims to “provoke conversations then act and react to the conversations 365 days a year.”  Tipp-EX created an avenue for conversation, action and reaction in its “hunter shoots a bear” campaign.  It entails watching the video, and then writing a word in the whited-out space, and then playing the revised story.  The results:

  • Reach went to television, radio and the press (on and off line)
  • Gained notoriety as an “innovation showing YouTube’s future.”
  • Visitors made more than 15 keyword requests, viewed more than 19 pages, and spent more than 6 minutes viewing the campaign.

Developing Deeper Emotional Connections – Ikea

Ikea  created deep emotional connections through a Facebook campaign promoting the opening of its store in Malmo, Sweden.  It uploaded images of the new showroom to a newly created Facebook photo album, and allowed photo tagging to connect with people on an emotional level.  The first person to tag their name to a product in the pictures won the product.  The result: news of the store opening grew exponentially, and the campaign was distributed across multiple channels of conversation including Twitter, Blogs, Television, Print, and Flash Mob video.

Fundamental Changes in the Marketing Process

These videos demonstrate the great importance that Coca Cola has placed on liquid content, and the extensive process changes this will entail.  Jonathan Mildenhall, Vice-President, Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, provides the voice-over. It provides a fantastic insight into one major brand’s approach to social media.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Snap Principle of Liquid Content:

Getting a community to promote your brand for you can trigger fantastic results.