The Ultimate Moment of Truth and The Art of Digital Engagement

In 2012, Google along with Jim Lecinski published a fantastic book that explored how digital customers made decisions in what Google refers to as “The Zero Moment of Truth.” The ZMOT as it’s abbreviated, helps strategists discover relevant strategies and tactics on how to show up at the right place, at the right time and with the right content in a digital ecosystem.

In a world where consumers “Google it” to begin their digital journey, ZMOT revealed that brands need to re-think the connected experience and the resulting click path. But what happens when the web sites that appear in traditional Google search results no longer suffice for someone so connected that impatience becomes a virtue? This is after all someone who begins the journey on a smart phone or tablet tapping review sites and social networks to make information come to them before conducting formal research. Some call it the lazy web. Others refer to it as the social web. In the end, it’s just how people make information come to them. Once they do, it becomes the norm.

Even though web sites technically work on smaller screens thanks to adaptive and responsive design, they’re still web sites. In the very least, they go against the very nature of how someone interacts with the screen and what it’s designed to make possible. Here, it’s less about clicks and scrolls and more about pinching and swipes. That’s not all of course. The intention of a web page is called into question, or should be, in a time of connected consumerism. Step back and think about it for a moment. The information included on web sites isn’t written for you and me, it’s written for the person approving it. When you consider context in addition to the screen in the Zero Moment of Truth, you learn that people aren’t seeking marketing copy, they’re seeking the experiences of others to help humanize information and apply it to their state of mind, needs, and aspirations. Let that sink in because I’ll wager it’s not where a majority of your investments are allocated right now.

So, the truth unfolds…

In my latest book, What’s the Future of Business, I introduced the Ultimate Moment of Truth, that moment where people who convert an experience into discoverable content in any one of the countless social platforms people use to stay connected these days. And in this connected economy, the Ultimate Moment of Truth, or UMOT, becomes the next person’s Zero Moment of Truth, over and over again.

In addition to web sites, landing pages and corresponding SEO and SEM strategies, businesses now must consider how to create experiences in every moment of truth that aren’t just meaningful or remarkable, but also shareable. The future of brands now lies in how UMOT meets ZMOT throughout the customer life cycle. See, without design, these experiences are left to chance. Instead, marketers must begin to architect, foster and optimize positive experiences in each moment that’s native to each screen, efficient in steps, and tied to desirable outcomes.

When Google learned of my work around UMOT, the team reached out to consider how me might work together to help marketers better connect the dots to enhance the ZMOT. Our first collaboration resulted in a whitepaper that’s free to download, “Give Them Something to Talk About: Brian Solis on the Art of Engagement.” I’ve included parts of our discussion below.

Stay tuned for what’s next!

Give Them Something to Talk About

First impressions matter. They matter to people and they especially matter to brands. At Google, we’ve taken a long look at how, increasingly, first impressions are formed online and have a big impact on what we decide to buy. We call this online decision making moment the “Zero Moment of Truth,” or ZMOT for short. In his latest book, What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences, Brian Solis, a principal analyst at Altimeter Group builds further on ZMOT’s implications. He zeroes in on how consumers’ first impressions of a brand often come from fellow consumers sharing experiences online. The accumulation of these shared experiences, Solis says, means brands need to pay more attention than ever to customer experience, journeys, and the relationships they nurture.

What does engagement mean for you?

Engagement is really about Actions, Reactions and Transactions; something that I refer to as A.R.T. Engagement, for me, is something that locks in an interaction or exchange. Thinking about engagement in that way inspires a different approach for content creation; you want somebody to feel something, not just see it.

If you think about engagement in this way, is it measurable?

Absolutely. You define your desired outcome and that outcome becomes what you measure. It’s the relationship between cause and effect. Unfortunately, most marketers don’t consider the outcome to be more than some low-level engagement measure — a ‘Like’, a ‘Share,’ a comment — when in fact you could introduce an emotion. If you love something, you share it. This isn’t just about impressions; this is about expressions. You want people to share it and do something and that should be designed into your engagement strategy.

Give_Them_Something_to_Talk_About__Brian_Solis_on_the_Art_of_Engagement_–_Think_Insights_–_Google

How can you enlist ‘shares’ to support a campaign objective?

No content should be designed today that isn’t inherently shareable. Take the Jeff Gordon Pepsi MAX commercial on YouTube. It comes from that same thinking that goes into Super Bowl commercials, where you stop and go, ‘Oh my god, that is the best commercial I’ve ever seen!’ For some reason marketers only get that creative once a year, but YouTube and the social web are unlocking that type of thinking. Everything you introduce to the social web should have the same caliber of creativity that goes into a Super Bowl commercial.

Is there a tendency for marketers to feel so overwhelmed by technology that they lose sight of their basic instinct for how consumers behave?

Look, I’m a consumer, you’re a consumer. When we talk about the brands we love, it’s very human and natural. But when we try to talk to people like us, we blank out and turn into ‘Marketing Man.’ We lose that human nature, that empathy. If you take a technology perspective, you are forever reacting. The minute you take a step back and say, “What’s the bigger mission?” you start to realize what you are trying to do is change behavior. This relationship between cause and effect is very human. Once you articulate that vision, technology becomes an enabler. It starts to work for you.

Consumers share brand experiences, whether the brand is listening or not. Do brands listen enough to those conversations?

Author Maya Angelou said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Take Twitter, Facebook, YouTube — what is shared is experiences. Somebody is eating a delicious dinner; that picture is published and shared. Somebody spots a product that makes them feel fantastic; it too becomes a shared experience. There are shared experiences that represent every step of the customer journey. These conversations existed before technology, but now they are searchable, retrievable and building on each other. Shared experiences, in aggregate, become the brand.

What happens when a brand’s marketing doesn’t reflect its image among consumers?

You may say: “This is our brand, this is what it represents, this is what we want you to feel, say, share.” But always ask yourself: “What is the collective experience that is published across the social web?” If you compare the two, many times there’s a disconnect between promise and real world experiences. I refer to this as the ‘experience divide.’ In many experiments I’ve found the brand promise and the experiences that are felt and shared are not even close to being aligned. That’s a problem.

How can brands close that gap?

If we spent less time ‘talking’ about our brand and brand promise and more time designing how we bring it to life, the experience divide would naturally narrow.

What can brands do when online consumers’ first impressions are being shaped by other consumers’ experiences?

These conversations — these shared experiences — they don’t self destruct. They build upon each other, creating a collective index. Search engines plug into this cloud of shared experiences and that Ultimate Moment of Truth, or UMOT for short, of shared experiences becomes the next person’s ZMOT. Experiences form impressions. Impressions become expressions as they’re shared. Expressions form new impressions. The link between UMOT and ZMOT is the future of branding and relationships.

This is a new way of thinking. As a brand you have to create the experiences you want people to have and share, and reinforce that through positive conditioning, so those are the things people find — over and over again. To get people to share more positive things, you have to first make sure they have a positive experience. This is a renaissance opportunity for brands to look back: ‘Why did we start this company? What are we trying to do?’ Because in the social web, it is those experiences that become your brand.

What’s the Future of Business? My new book…#WTF

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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