The tech advances of the last few years have turned the news and entertainment worlds on their ears, shifting the balance of power away from media giants to consumers and citizens, empowering them to choose and create. Arianna Huffington, described by Fortune as one of the few people who “get” the Internet, discussed the latest online and social media trends, revealing her vision of a hybrid future where traditional and new media become one.
Arianna Huffington turned The Huffington Post into a Pulitzer-winning news entity in less than eight years.
As opening keynote at Demand Success, Arianna shared how the strategies that made The Huffington Post successful will do the same for marketers.
The key? Tapping into megatrends.
“When we tap into the megatrends, we have the wind at our back,” Arianna says.
The megatrends that matter most to marketers involve understanding how people communicate online and engaging them.
Here are six megatrends that Arianna says marketers must pay attention to:
1. Engage your community
PR professionals, marketers and news agencies can no longer sit on Mount Olympus telling people what’s important, Arianna says. Today, everybody has a voice.
When the Huffington Post debuted on May 9, 2005, they prioritized comments. At the site’s inception, Arianna even hired her daughters to pre-moderate comments in order to keep the worst aspects of the Internet (anonymous attacks) out.
Now using algorithms, more than 90 percent of comments are approved because trolls have moved on.
The Huffington Post prioritized productive comments in its articles because they knew they would create a loyal, engaged community.
2. Be authentic
“You cannot just hide behind a press release and disappear. You cannot hide behind the perfect 30-second ad and disappear,” Arianna says. “You have to be willing to be in the arena.”
Brands must be willing to acknowledge mistakes. The faster you acknowledge and apologize for a mistake the better it is for your brand.
3. Facilitate real–time interactions
Oreo’s tweet about the blackout at the Super Bowl would have been significantly less impactful if they went through layers of approval and came out once the Super Bowl had ended.
An overlooked piece of brilliance of the “Dunk in the Dark” ad is that the marketing team had the autonomy to react quickly.
Marketers should create a structure that allows real-time decision making because you have to be there to respond to both the positive and negative.
Sound risky? Arianna notes that innovative marketers will always be questioned.
To that Arianna answers, “You might as well be in the arena to respond because you’re not going to be able to silence them.”
4. Make your audience take action
People light up at stories not facts and figures. But stories can do more than grab people’s attention, they can spur people to take action.
However, businesses don’t need reporters to cover them or creative million-dollar marketing campaigns. They simply need to provide a platform for people to tell their stories, just as The Huffington Post does for people from all walks of life.
5. Create a sense of occasion, drama and playfulness
The Hufington Post bucked a trend by having its featured story splash across the entire front page.
At the time industry thought said high click rates required posting as many stories as possible within a reader’s view.
“We found that people love the drama of the big splash,” Arianna says. “They wanted to come many times to see what’s the big story now.”
Of course, people wouldn’t click on the big splash stories unless they sounded interesting. That’s why The Huffington Post uses creative, playful headlines.
For example, they published “Poke the Pope” when the Pope John Paul II joined Facebook.
The drama and playfulness has benefitted The Huffington Post across a number of platforms.
“We started this primarily as a politics and news site but now a majority of our traffic, a majority of our engagement doesn’t come from politics and news,” Arianna says.
6. Avoid burn out
This is an issue Arianna says she’s obsessed with. People are burning out from stress and unsustainable work habits.
“Very often in order to tap into our creativity, in order to tap into the best of us, we need to learn to unplug and recharge,” Arianna says.
Focus on living with less stress, avoid multitasking and use 100 percent of your concentration to accomplish the tasks at hand.
In addition to implementing this in your own life, consider having that as a theme of your marketing messaging.
“Focus on well-being, wisdom and performance-enhancement tools. That’s a great message that consumers are resonating to,” Arianna says.