Saturday, October 2, 2010

Building Online Communities in a Tribal Universe

There's been a lot of demand lately for community building in all categories. This is for a reason, the thought of having a community that rallies around your product or service is very attractive. Heck, it's like shooting fish in a barrel from a CRM stand point.

But I think we're kidding ourselves to think that we can continue to lure consumers into "community environments" without getting financially soaked and forever struggling to retain the..well...retention platform.

Community implies a wrapper and a place. The thought of creating "sticky" environments and sending media to see what sticks is no longer the game. We've evolved...

Some important observations on communities online:
  • Communities are fleeting. They assemble and disband sometimes within a few minutes.
  • Communities are pull-based and non-committal. Needs based on search queries. With so much information available for free, your proposition needs to be attractive, achievable (in the case of a contest) and without strings attached.
  • Consumers want instant gratification. If your community proposition means they need to sign up for something, then the value proposition needs to represent an instant value exchange.

It's our job to work within this transient behavior. It's also important to seriously consider what you are trying to achieve and whether the cost involved in building a potential ghost town is worth the risk. In many cases we're smarter to leverage existing communities, the ones that live and die by the principals of community - not product.

Applying the concept of editorial calendars to your media strategy is one way to succeed in this newer "tribal" marketing game.

Re-thinking the role of community in retention strategies is necessary to stay on top of the moving herds.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Micro-Liking - Facebook's Ownership of Like...

It's been a while since I've posted. Watching the social media landscape unfold can be quite distracting. It’s been dizzying to read about the innovations and failures from our thought leaders in the space. I’m alarmed by a few developments that have taken place over the past months online in general but some of them actually fascinate me.

The landscape’s plot lines are shockingly similar to those of a good soap opera. Around the time of my last post, people were just starting to forget about Facebook’s beacon debacle. As I dust off the keyboard again, it’s remarkable to see how the same technology was re-shuffled, sweetened and made-up to look like well… like “like”.

Facebook’s ownership of “like”, is a massive shift in the world of communications as a whole. Facebook has taken liking something to a different level. In many cases it has diluted its meaning to a commodity.

Our likes and dislikes make up our character. Friends, family and others identify us by our musical taste, our culinary preferences, our reading lists and our sense of humour. Our likes and dislikes make us unique and speak of our ethical and moral fibre. Before Facebook, we have not experienced this mass call to express our likes so frequently and across so many levels. We have become micro-likers and Facebook is the single most driving factor of this shift in like-itude
(I am fully aware of my made up vocabulary – I “like” it).

Liking something on Facebook does the following:

  • Generates publicity for the liker – any activity on Facebook draws attention through the wall posts
  • Satisfies egos - the exhibitionist in all of us that want to say “align me with this joke, piece of art, brilliant thought, brand or philosophy"
  • Commits the Liker to a string of conversation that may or may not interest
  • Gives props to the author, poster, contributor or friend
So liking something out loud has become a value proposition of sorts. But here’s my question... If I like Obama’s inaugural speech, do I like it as much as Nutella’s Facebook page? Does bringing a smile to my face warrant the “like” action EVERY time? Due to its one-dimensional meaning on Facebook, are we changing the fundamental meaning of like?

From an online media perspective, there's obvious value in targeting against "like portfolios" but will this go back to a view thru/click thru argument at some point, where we scratch our heads at the holes in effectiveness of targeting this way? Just because someone doesn't click “like” x or y does that mean they are not valuable targets?

We throw so much faith into the user’s “actions”. It would probably be a good idea to understand what motivates them before we base assumptions, large budgets and product innovations on them.

It reminds me yet again, of one of my favourite lines in The Incredibles…