Tips from Virgin’s Former Digital Boss

Alex Hunter was responsible for getting the Virgin America airline off the ground, with an unfunded grass roots campaign that led Congress to reverse its original decision and approve certification. He went on to head Virgin Group’s entire internet strategy before becoming a ‘company incubator’ – and JLA’s most popular speaker on digital engagement. We asked Alex to share his enthusiasm for doing business online…

 

What are the digital ground rules?

There is only one rule for businesses as far as I’m concerned. Be honest, open, and transparent in every facet of your online existence. The digital generation is very good at sniffing out fakes – be it outsourced tweeting, linkbait blog posts, or spammy email campaigns. Businesses should treat digital engagement with their customers as a one-on-one conversation. Do that and you will be fine.

 

Can digital drive growth in any organisation?

Absolutely. It can drive substantial revenue generation AND improve customer loyalty by increasing the length and quality of engagement. Digital allows for reduced cost, far better metrics/data, and targeted/relevant marketing on levels that we’ve never had the luxury of in the past.

 

What can business learn from social media?

Never underestimate the power of ‘we.’ A message or idea can travel further and faster than ever before – which for business is wonderful and scary at the same time. Social media can mobilise legions of people around a cause, be it politics or a product. While it’s used to call out companies on a poor experience, it’s also given brand advocates a powerful platform to declare their loyalty.

 

Aside from bad feedback, are there other traps? 

Yes. One danger is that businesses try to extend too far into a consumer’s personal life by invading their social networks without permission or invitation. Platforms like Facebook can be powerful word-of-mouth marketing tools, but many companies incur the wrath of the consumer by tricking them into sharing links or content with Facebook Friends.

 

What’s the most exciting digital development for you? 

I’m a big believer in using our own social graph – the connections we share – to help make purchasing decisions. It can be as simple as picking a restaurant or as high-value as choosing a holiday destination. When we tap into the collective experience of people we know and trust, we make much more informed choices. We now share 500 billion impressions a year with each other?

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