By Syed M. Ayaz

Over the last few decades, the frequency of accessing and sharing information has grown immensely. Today, the term Global Village undoubtedly refers to the impact of internet on the world and how immediate access to information with no limitation or boundaries has affected every industry. Hence, the knowledgebase of today’s human is far higher than previous generations.

Before the advent of Internet, access to information was never as easy as it is today and probably our future generations cannot even imagine a life without it. In this digital age, desired information is just a few clicks away. New technologies in search engines and digital media continue to evolve and redefine how we live our lives and the way we perceive and consume information. Thanks to this new trend, every discipline and industry is now progressing to the next level by making intelligent use of digital media. We can easily gauge how this fast-paced information flow has changed content model seen on traditional media; be it news, dramas, moderated talk shows or documentaries, the influence of foreign culture and global media practices are evident in local media content in more ways than one. With the quantum of data being made available online, even today’s consumer knows precisely how to filter and get access to information they are looking for and doing their research and forming opinions based on this plethora of information. Consumers can’t be spoon-fed and expected to believe everything as it is given to them.

Mass media continues to play the role of a powerful change agent in the society as its a major source of information that provides locally and culturally relevant content to a large number of people, and its boom has made it powerful enough to influence the thought process and lifestyle of people by becoming an integral part of their routine life. Due to its far-reaching impact, mass media became the most effective tool to communicate with consumers in the latter part of the twentieth century. Even though, it is still primarily being used to create awareness but with limitations in engagement, information clutter, extensive options and high costs, it is losing its stature in the eyes of its audience and even other stakeholders. A big change was brought about when Newsweek ceased its print publication at the end of 2012 and moved to an all-digital format. Today, almost all leading TV channels and newspapers around the world are offering digital services. With changing media dynamics, digital media is fast becoming the most consumed medium all over the world and is literally shifting the media industry paradigm due to its interactive nature. There is no doubt that with the current growth rate being experienced by digital media, mass media will eventually transform into digital.

Ever since the internet became commercialized in 1995, it has transformed the web experience for an ordinary man starting from e-commerce websites like amazon.com and ebay.com to the upcoming phenomena of augmented reality and Web 3.0. Where this transformation has immensely changed the way brands and marketers think and operate, it has also shifted consumer behavior and sentiments toward brands. The adoption of social media by brands is not just because of its availability, but also because it offers two-way communication with consumers, which no other medium does. And we all know that today’s consumers love to interact directly with the brand on a more personal level, feel connected and updated, and share experiences on the go. Businesses using these social media sites and other avenues like smartphone apps add the “Human” element to connect with their loyal as well as potential customers. For this reason, all leading brands in almost every industry of the world have ensured their presence on leading social media websites and have even designed, developed and deployed communication modules specifically for this medium according to audience needs, behavior and following in their respective communities.

It is essential to understand that a brand’s digital presence can make or break its corporate image. In developed markets, approximately 60% of potential customers today look at product reviews before making a purchase decision. According to Desk.com, in 1983 a vocal customer could influence about 10 people; in 2002 this bar raised to 100 people; whereas in 2010, it was revealed that 1 vocal customer can now reach out to 1,375 people. Bearing in mind this trend where consumers have more and more influencing power, it is important for brands to realize that every customer is a valuable customer. A survey conducted a year ago showed that 41% of Facebook users’ feel that its a good resource to learn and read about brands, whereas 49% people who complained about a brand on Twitter expected the business owning the brand to read the complaint and 83% loved to receive a response.

Considering the way technology is progressing today, with consumers getting immune to new access points of information being made available through various facets of digital media, my final word to companies and brands is that before stepping into this business, it is advisable to have complete understanding of the digital media scenario and all its implications as well as attributes with respect to your market and audience behavior. Remember, “Once you’re online there is no coming back!!!”

Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft once said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” The rule aptly applies to the digital media. The way brands, businesses and people in general use this medium will largely determine their personal as well as professional success. Its growing adoption means that this medium is here to stay and change the way we lead our lives leaving us with no other choice but to adapt to the change.

Sources:
Population numbers: US Census Bureau & local census agencies
Internet usage information: Nielsen Online, International Telecommunications Union, GfK & local ICT Regulators
Social media information: Desk.com

Syed M. Ayaz is associated with Syntax Communications, a leading PR agency. He played the crucial role of helping his company adapt PR 2.0 when it was a fairly new concept. Ayaz believes in making intelligent use of digital media to enhance PR influence on brands and customers. He can be reached on Twitter @zayams.

 

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