Forget everything you read online. Forget about whether or not you should be more engaged on Twitter or Facebook. Forget about The Huffington Post being sold to AOL for $315 milion. Ask yourself this: is your brand really and truly interactive?
The difference between traditional media channels and the digital channels (Web, Mobile, Tablet-Touch) happens at the level of interactivity. It sounds simple enough. In fact, it's so simple that I removed this concept from most of presentations because saying it in 2011 is like saying that electricity when turned on makes a room brighter. But, you know what? People need to hear this message one more time (and really push themselves to think about it). So many brands still engage in the digital channels while offering only a modicum of true interactivity.
We often struggle to understand why a newspaper or radio website can't turn a profit or why they struggle with building an audience that is even a fraction of the size when compared to their offline endeavors. On quick glance, the answer is so blatantly obvious: the interactivity is not there. The talent (the journalists and on-air announcers) don't get interactive with their audience and more often than not, consumers have to register or jump over hurdles to have their voices heard (they have to register and wait for an email confirmation, etc...). It's still not uncommon for many of these sites to not link out to other sources for fear that their audience will leave and never come back. Even the ones that are pushing the envelope are doing so, still have one foot firmly placed in the broadcasting side of their business.
You won't win online without interactivity.
It's not just a platitude. Not only does a brand have to ensure that their content is interactive, they also have to ensure that it's a corporate cultural imperative. It's everyone's job within the organization to know that the baseline expectations of the consumer is a world where they can really interact with their media. Pushing it further, they need the ability to share it, mash-it-up and push it to corners of the online channels that may not reside within the four walls of your strategy deck.
Why is this so hard?
When all you've ever done is broadcast a message, it's all you've ever really known. Even as brands attempt to update their online presence, step one is always to ensure that the materials that they're using to broadcast in the traditional channels have a place online. Why start there? Why not push back and ask one, simple (but hard to answer question): "if we didn't have a legacy and we know that people have an expectation of complete interactivity online, what could we do with our brand in those channels to best meet their needs?"
Avoid the copy/paste temptation.
It's too easy to take the current content you have and copy/paste it online. Brands do this (both B2C and B2B). Newspaper websites do this. Major record labels do this. Consumer packaged goods do this. Don't do this. Technology has evolved. Your brand can evolve too. Think about ways to make your brand interactive. Do the kinds of things that would put a smile on someone's face during their first brand interaction.
The consumer has an expectation for complete interactivity. A brand must be interactive online. It's not an easy mandate to fill, but what choice do we have?