The ubiquity of social technologies and mobile devices have given rise to an interesting paradox.
We can now pinpoint with deadly accuracy who, where, when, and how consumers behave. Thanks to the assortment of sensing, tracking and predictive technologies, consumers’ every action can be accurately and meticulously mapped.
On the other hand, humans are actively resisting the efforts of companies to pigeonhole them. Nobody wants to be known as Mr X, aged Y, who drives a Z, lives in A, and has an uncanny liking for B.
Besides, we are irritated by aggressive pop-up ads while leisurely surfing on our smart devices or using apps.
How then should we balance the opposing desires of companies and consumers?
How Serendipitous Content Happens
I believe the answer lies in Serendipitous Content Marketing. This can be done through balancing purposeful product and service designs with a pleasurable and almost accidental discovery.
Let me explain how this works.
Imagine that you’re scrolling through your Facebook feeds. Along the way, you may be attracted to gorgeous food photos in a café your friend recently visited. You click “like” and perhaps leave a comment.
Then you hear a “ding” and receive a tweet from another friend. Coincidentally, she asked if you’ll like to meet at that very same café for coffee.
Intrigued by the dual mention of the café, you Google its name and look for reviews. Hey, what do you know, 5 of your friends have been there, and 3 of them have given it a 5 star rating on HungryGoWhere (a popular food review forum).
Somewhere in your brain, something clicks. You immediately respond “Yes!” to your friends’ tweet. A customer is made.
Connecting the Dots
On the surface, everything appears somewhat… well… serendipitous. After all, who knows that you’d chance upon a mention of that cafe twice in the same hour, or that 5 of your trusted buddies have been there.
Beneath the surface, however, the trick lies in how such “occurrences” can be engineered so that they can be more easily discovered by our potential customer. This involves a complex process of integrating targeted content with community participation, Google AdWords or Facebook advertising, and trust building.
How To Engineer Serendipity?
To achieve such “anticipatory accidents”, companies need to think like their target customers. They need to ensure that their marketing content are seen in the right places at the right time by the right people.
Here are some ways to design, curate and choreograph this:
1) Be Where Your Customers are
Zoom in to where your customers are online.
If your customers are hipsterish young adults or too-cool-for-school teens, you may need an Instagram or Twitter account to reach these audiences. Similarly, aesthetically oriented businesses like fashion houses, confectioneries and architect firms should have Pinterest profiles complete with thematic boards.
Management consultancies and law firms would do well to have a presence on Google Plus as well as LinkedIn to reach corporate and knowledge-based customers.
2) Create Targeted Content
Create content (eg mouthwatering food pics) that are likely to resonate with your customers. If you’re on Instagram or Twitter, use the right #hashtags (eg #dessertporn), and seed them in targeted online communities (eg foodie circles).
A good way to ensure that your content is on-target is to work with creators who eat, live and breathe in the same space as your customers.
3) Get Your Customers Into The Act
Incentivise customers to leave positive reviews on forums and blogs, and make it easy for them to do so. If possible, make it easy and even fun for them to do so face-to-face (eg by sweetly asking them to sign in and leave a comment on a website).
Sometimes, all you need to do is ask. If that alone doesn’t work, consider giving them vouchers or other benefits.
4) Be Part of Their Online Lives
Participate in the social communities of your target customers. Give a “like”, leave a comment, retweet, or share their content (with permission of course) on your own networks. Naturally, this should be content that is relevant to your business.
Create good karma and reciprocate.
5) Advertise Strategically Online
Using the incredible intelligence of Google, Facebook and other online platforms, zoom in to your targeted customers.
Advertise strategically on platforms which yield the greatest chance of “accidental” discovery. They could include specific keywords on Google AdWords, or target audiences on Facebook zoned to geographies, age groups and education levels.
You could also make use of remarketing to reach past website users and app users.
6) Invest in Analytics and Data Crunching
To keep your finger on the right customer pulse, you need to ensure that your data monitoring, tracking and analysis are spot on. This means that you have to trace your customer journeys, measure the points of contact, and amalgamate customer insights to deliver actionable outcomes.
Thankfully, this can be done more easily these days with marketing automation software, Google Analytics, and other tracking processes.
Making Accidental Discoveries Work
The beauty of serendipitous content is that customers do not feel that they are being pushed a branded product or a service. Rather, they are drawn to your brands in an unforced, uninterrupted, and organic fashion.
Well, at least we hope so anyway.
At the end of the day, consumers need products and services to survive and thrive. However, they hate to be marketed or sold to, not least in their private and personal digital spaces.
To overcome this seeming contradiction, companies should invest time, effort and money in behaving more like humans and less like cold-hearted organisations.
They should make themselves “likable” and create opportunities for sales to take place in an unhurried and non-threatening manner. One that dovetails with where one’s customers are, in a most natural and unassuming manner.
By doing so, their chances of converting online onlookers to committed customers will increase significantly. And that is no accident.
What are your views on serendipitous content marketing? Would such an idea work?