Words are flying out like endless rain into a paper cup;
They slither while they pass; They slip away across the universe.
– John Lennon & Paul McCartney
The words and way we communicate today is obviously very different than in the past. In fact, over the past 5 years, the increasing usage of Twitter and texting has been nothing short of spectacular. Twitter reported that more than two billion tweets were sent just last month. Wow!
What is interesting is that as a new communication medium is launched, we keep compressing the time frame to contact someone and expect a response. Back in the 1960s when the Beatles were writing their legendary songs, the only way to talk to your girl was on a rotary dial up phone – an answering machine didn’t exist. If you had to reach someone, you simply kept calling until they were home. Then, along came the answering machine. Now you could leave a message and probably get a call back later that day or the next. By the early 2000s, email broke through the next threshold where a response could be expected within 24 hours.
Today you can text or twitter someone, and if they don’t reply back within a few minutes, some might be offended. Worse, they might think you lost your phone or are in trouble! The time required to reach out and talk with someone anywhere in the world has been compressed from days to minutes with texting and twittering. And, not only has the length of time for response been compressed, the actual content of the message has been shortened from having a 30 minute phone call to sending a 140 character tweet.
As with other technology advances (see “Evolving Social Behaviors Necessitate a Change in Marketing Communications“), a new social behavior has also evolved with this communications transformation. The concept of where and when to meet someone for dinner, a movie, etc. has changed. Now, it is acceptable to simply suggest a general area and time for your social interaction … details can follow later. And, if you are running late, no sweat; texting has made it socially acceptable to be late, as long as you communicate your delay to the affected party.
But, as a marketer, it is highly unlikely that your target audience will be as forgiving.
If you approach your marketing communications in the same way, you might not be very effective. To start, if you are meeting with a client, you are the one that is expected to be prompt and on time; if your prospect is late, then that isn’t a problem. The same holds true if you are advertising your product’s availability or a promotion. Even if it is a 20 minute special, your decision to text your prospects about your current offer might not be seen as relevant or appropriate in their minds, causing frustration on their part from your message.
Or, it might be just fine. Let me explain. A twitter user or company that sends out a 140 character message that is perceived to have significant value to a recipient will be welcomed, such as a tweet announcing free concert tickets to the first 100 people that arrive at a certain location. But, the line between what is appropriate and what is not is a fine line, with the potential of alienating your target audience if you get it wrong. Best to choose those 140 characters very carefully!
Personally, I am offended at every one of the marketing or sales texts that I have received, such as to call now to refi my home mortgage. Seriously, is this a message that I need to drop everything regardless of where I am and immediately start a refinance process? This is an excellent example of an evolving social behavior that must be addressed by marketers, and not abused. It may be totally inappropriate to expect an instant response from your prospect, even though today’s technology could support it.
It is critical that we, as marketers, choose a medium and expected time frame for response that matches our offer if we are to avoid alienating our prospects. For example, if I am offering a service targeted at residential real estate agents, then an email might be most appropriate for matching the time to reply to the offer, especially considering that most real estate agents now carry smart phones capable of reading and responding to emails. A text, however, sent to an agent out in the field while showing a prospect an open house might be disruptive, annoying and ill timed. Be careful when exploring these new communications mediums. Given the ease of today’s mass communications, a poorly executed marketing communications can go viral in an instant, causing potential long term damage to your brand or company.
Texts and tweets now fly out like endless rain while they slip away across the cyber universe … best to be sure your message is relevant and time appropriate when trying to reach out across your universe.
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies.