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Social Media & The Bartleboom Trap: Lessons in Communication and Customer Engagement

Posted on by Samuele Cavallaro

In the novel “Oceano Mare” (Ocean Sea) by Alessandro Baricco, one of the main characters readers come across is Bartleboom, an eccentric professor, “looking for the end of the ocean”. Such is the eccentricity of this scientist that he pens love letters to a woman he has yet to meet. Of course, at first, the reader might look upon the Professor as being a hopeless romantic rather than an eccentric; after all, he speaks (or rather, writes) the language of love.

However, the story progresses rather unfortunately for Professor Bartleboom. 

Instead of finding his lady love, as the reader might have hoped, the Professor ends up doing the opposite – he marries a woman he doesn’t love. Nevertheless, he leaves his wife to continue his quest for romance and, joy of joys, finds someone else! But his joy is short-lived as Bartleboom discovers that his sweetheart is already engaged. 

Towards the end of the story we see the Professor laughing as he hands over his love letters to the servant of this lady. 

As a reader, you might feel a twinge of sadness for poor Professor Bartleboom, or you might shrug your shoulders as if to say, “Well that’s life.”

But what does any of this have to do with the world of social media, communicate and customer engagement?

Very simple — communication without personal engagement is meaningless.

Whilst the Professor  was indeed communicating his heart out in highly emotional, eloquent, and expressive terms, there was no personal engagement; there was no deepening and strengthening of relationships.

If you examine the story deeply, you will see that Bartleboom wasn’t really a romantic at all because the letters he wrote were not so much for his future lover as much as they were for himself. The man was not seeking to fall in love with a person; rather, he was besotted with the idea of love itself.

And that’s what we see in the world of social media as well — more often than not, there’s a whole lot of communication but little or no personal engagement. Billions of dollars are spent in social media campaigns however strong customer relationships are conspicuous by their absence from the results. We have plenty of statistics pertaining to the social media habits of users but ROI measurement is still a massive challenge.

So it’s not enough to have a plethora of social media channels that are able to engage users across the globe, meaningful connections need to be made, strong relationships need to be be built.

Marketers need to avoid falling into the Bartleboom trap of thinking that communication is an end in itself because all communication is pointless if it does not lead to real conversations with real people. Simply broadcasting campaigns across social media channels is meaningless unless they lead to real relationships being built with real people. After all, whether online or offline, it is relationships that drive business.

The power of social media is its immediacy and its intimacy. Simple messages can go viral in a matter of minutes. There is a very real and present opportunity to have meaningful conversations with people on a personal level. As always, however, the challenge for marketers is monetization. And regardless of how we go about overcoming these challenges one thing is for sure. 

Personal engagement is the key to effective communication strategy. Always has been, always will be. Because, at the end of the day, business isn’t primarily about leveraging technology. Rather, it’s about giving real people tangible reasons for being our customers. That’s what our communication needs to be. 

Brands as relationships

Posted on by Samuele Cavallaro

The dictionary definition of brand is a “unique design, sign, symbol, words or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors”. But brands are so much more than visual. They go to the heart of a company and the experience we, as consumers, have with them. We build relationships with brands and if they deliver on their promises, they are rewarded with our loyalty.

In many ways, brands are like people - some you love, some you like, some you tolerate and some you downright despise. The way we feel about a person (or brand) is largely based on actions, personality and character.

Just like some people, brands can be challenging to understand, but by thinking of a brand as a person rather than a logo, or corporate structure, it’s easier to understand how that brand actually works in the real world. And just like people the relationship is critical.

Here’s some analogies that might help to understand why we feel the way we do about a brand.

Honesty: It’s what we all want, need and expect in a relationship. When we don’t have it there is no trust. If you want your brand to have loyalty and trust you have to be honest in what you in action and voice.

Selflessness: If someone you know does something selfless to help you without expecting any thing in return, a relationship is built and you are left with a good feeling. Brands that go the extra mile leave that same positive feeling.

Consistency: If you have ever been friends with an erratic person you can probably attest to some frustration. Brands are no different. Inconsistent delivery of quality, or varying brand experiences makes us wonder why we even bother.

Impression: When you interact with another person you don’t just assess the color of their shirt, you take into consideration the entire person - how they speak, look, what they stand for and how they treat you. This happens subconsciously. If we think of brands in the same way, we realize that a brand is so much more than just a logo and it’s easier to understand the warm and fuzzy feelings we have for some brands versus others.

Values: If a person says or does something that goes against your own value system it’s not entirely unusual to have negative feelings towards that person. Brands are no different. The values projected by a brand can build brand connection or separation depending on the alignment values of their audience. 

Trust: This is a big one. Blow this at a personal level and the road ahead for the relationship looks pretty rocky. It’s the same deal with brands. Break the trust with your customer and you can bet the loyalty (and bottom line) is looking shaky.

Openness: This leads to understanding and good communication. Just like people, brands require a level of openness to build a strong relationship foundation with their chosen audience.  Getting that communication right is also critical. You don’t want your message to be lost in translation.

So take another look at your favorite brands and analyze whether they tick all the boxes in terms of their integral features. It’s important, but not always easy, for brands to get it right. After all, relationships are more about fuzzy, intangible, abstract factors whereas brands are usually about numbers, bottom-lines and business. The mission for brands, then, is to strategically gear themselves for nurturing customer relationships in a way that builds business.

Welcome to Digital United S.A.!

Posted on by Samuele Cavallaro

Welcome to Digital United — a LinkedIn group that seeks to grow the community of South Australian professionals who recognize the power of digital solutions for their role and for the organizations they represent. Our vision for this group is that it would grow into a forum where people will share the challenges they are facing with the confidence that the group will have the answer!

What sort of “digital” are we referring to? Well, anything that is new media, really. From websites and browser-based games to mobile apps and social media, these are just some of the themes that we would expect to cover in this group. If someone has an idea of how we can build a time-machine, or something even crazier, we’d love to hear it!

As ideas are discussed and as thoughts are shared, our hope is that you will be inspired and in turn, be an inspiration to others. So that we all can really push the envelope in terms of digital solutions that have a positive business impact.

In the coming days you can expect to see digital-related content being added to the group which will deal with a range of topics. Feel free to join in the conversation or to share these notes within your peer network. In fact, we’d love for you to contribute your own ideas too, so don’t be surprised if our admin gets in touch with you about sharing some of your own content.

That’s it for now. We look forward to a great time of collaboration and learning with you.

Digital United Team