Interview

“The real path to success is not greater reach, but greater engagement”

Harvard Business School professor Bharat Anand on using the internet to foster customer interaction

Soumik Kar

Bharat Anand, author of The Content Trap: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Change and professor at Harvard Business School, argues that the largest opportunities for businesses seeking to leverage the power of the internet lie in fostering interactions among customers, and creating complementary businesses rather than just seeking widespread distribution of their traditional products. In an interaction with Outlook Business, he points out why a successful digital strategy is about being connection-centric than being content-centric.

How can media companies break away from the content trap in a digital world?

There are two challenges nearly every business faces today: getting noticed and getting paid. The content traprefers to certain common behaviour or mindset that organisations tend to exhibit when competing digitally, in trying to solve these challenges. For instance, internet is primarily seen as a distribution channel for existing content or product. This is how we thought about the internet for a long time — and many organisations still frame its benefits in these terms. But this benefit just scratches the surface of what ‘going digital’ offers. Think about it in this way: if we characterise organisations as hub-to-spoke operations — the product or content from the hub is distributed to consumers in the spokes, then the power of the internet isn’t just about reaching more spokes, but leveraging two other types of interactions. The first are spoke-to-hub interactions: what distinguishes the internet from prior technologies such as TV and radio is that consumers can more easily interact with organisations, they can tell them what they like or do not like about their product, they can produce content themselves, and they can provide more information on their preferences and tastes which can then be used to personalise offerings. The other, and perhaps even more important, benefit comes from spoke-to-spoke interactions — where consumers, or buyers and sellers, can interact not just with the company and the product it offers but with each other. This type of ‘user connectedness’, rather than merely greater reach, is the real power of today’s digital technologies. And we see this idea reflected in virtually every successful digita

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