Social media marketing, SEO techniques and then a great online PR and marketing strategy have become a necessity, for both corporate and SME's
Earlier this year, the world’s first ‘virtual divorce’ thrust an intriguing debate into the limelight: what is the relationship between virtual worlds and the real environment we inhabit, and can we still distinguish the two?
Amy Taylor ‘divorced’ husband David Pollard after she discovered him cavorting with a prostitute in virtual reality game Second Life. The couple spent so much time playing the game, that when she found him at the computer watching his 3D character having sex, she considered his online infidelity as real as if it had taken place in the bricks and mortar world.
Sceptics view dealings in such online games as a poor substitute for ‘real life’ interactions. Yet the impact of virtual worlds cannot be underestimated. So far, over 15m people have established avatars in Second Life alone, with membership increasing by around 70,000 people a day. In June 2009, market research firm Strategy Analytics predicted global membership of virtual worlds would increase from 186 million today to 640 million by 2015 (as reported in Virtual Worlds News).
That’s a staggering one hundred million people per year, creating characters for entertainment, engagement and business. Online multiplayer gaming such as Xbox LIVE is also increasing in popularity, allowing people from across the globe to interact in real-time. We’ve even seen the first ‘virtual murder’; a Japanese piano teacher was recently arrested on suspicion of killing her ‘virtual husband’ after becoming enraged when he divorced her unexpectedly in an internet game.
This explosion of growth raises some interesting questions about the nature of relationships in cyberspace - and virtual worlds are just one part of the ever-expanding, sophisticated world we inhabit online. From Match.com to mysinglefriend®, Sugardaddie.com to ratemybody.com, the digital environment plays cupid for a vast array of relationships. To some extent, email and texts have replaced the love letter, instant messaging has become a substitute for telephone calls and social networking is now key to social contact. These days, we’re just as likely to give potential dates a poke on Facebook, Skype Chat them up or tweet sweet nothings to attract their attention.
Clearly, many of us now view the internet as crucial to modern-day communication –and not just in our personal and social lives. From a professional perspective, the web – and Web 2.0 in particular – has fundamentally changed the way we do business. Monique Lester,the Digital Media Marketing Queen of London Digital PR, says,"Web 2.0 has become an integral part of how businesses promote themselves and build a relationship with their clients. Social media marketing, SEO techniques and then a great online PR and marketing strategy have become a necessity, for both corporate and SME's."
With over 40 million members, networking tool LinkedIn demonstrates the internet’s importance to how we make successful contacts. We meet people and connect on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and the like, and we use email and instant messaging for work just as much as in our private lives.
In marketing and media terms, the explosion of online communications has come as both a blessing and a challenge. In publishing, it’s little surprise that media use via the Internet is displacing traditional forms such as printed newspapers. In the developed world, we now get an increasing amount of our news and entertainment online. Add to this the huge growth in listening to and watching online programmes, and we see just how far we’ve come.
Marketers continue to spend more online than on traditional channels. Forrester Research recently released its five year forecast, predicting that by 2014, 21% of marketing spend in the US will be on interactive tools and services. Overall advertising in traditional media will continue to decline in favour of more effective online methods – with social media, email and search highlighted for particular growth.
This in itself is hardly surprising, for we live in the world of the virtual consumer. We only need consider our sphere of influence when making purchasing decisions. We research online, bank online, shop online, book holidays online. From branded emails and online customer service to consumer feedback, staff training and social media activities, brands have countless opportunities to form relationships and start a two-way dialogue in new and often unexpected ways.
For marketers who tap into the zeitgeist, the possibilities are endless – and a lot can be achieved with minimal budgets. Built around two similar sounding words, the recent ‘Compare the meerkat’ campaign used an effective and quirky viral concept to boost brand awareness, drive traffic and enable cost-effective search. A series of excellent digital executions include YouTube clips, a Facebook page and amusing Twitter feed, along with a full spoof microsite. The campaign’s success is evidence that by adopting an integrated approach driven by personality, brands can maximise the potential for engagement.
For charities too, the online world has tremendous power to influence through the ability to form relationships with people on an individual basis, on a mass scale. In essence, so-called ‘virtual interactions’ can make a real tangible difference to people’s daily lives. By using Twitter as a driving force for event organisation and providing information on Facebook pages and Vimeo’s video community, Twestival was able to provide clean water for over 17,000 people earlier this year. This is just one of many examples of social media’s power to drive change by appealing for people to join together.
Monique Lester says, "Our online interactions are not a substitute for real life, but a fundamental part of it. The challenge is to embrace all the opportunities the Web brings while still maintaining our core values."
Turning back to the debate, it’s clear that in developed and developing countries, the online world has penetrated every part of our existence. From Facebook to LinkedIn, email to ICQ, all are controlled by real people, with real feelings, instincts and motives. Our lives and relationships are a complex series of online and offline interactions – and we can no longer see the virtual and real worlds as separate spheres operating independently. We live our lives in a post-digital age; the Internet is no longer an alien concept to be dabbled with on occasion, but something that pervades our entire lives.
London Digital PR
London Digital PR
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