Image: Courtesy of 13.media.tumblr
Comparing my friends in real life and friends in my Social Graph, I had an interesting revelation: most of my “real friends” are outwardly similar to me. We have common interests, tend not to be very interracial, multicultural or intergenerational. My Social Graph, on the other hand, is a totally different game. I find myself exchanging thoughts and feelings before even acknowledging, even less caring about skin color, gender or age. I have people in my network young enough to be my kids and significantly older than me. I hear from atheists, evangelists, wing-nuts, unemployed, independently wealthy – you get the point.
This is especially true for new platforms. When I first discovered Twitter, I just followed anyone that sounded remotely interesting. Over time, social networks start to develop specialized groups (at the worst, cliques) the longer these platforms are around, and the more time communities had to develop. That might be the reason why networks die over time: communities become stale and too much like our real-life networks.
Fresh networks help me to build relationships I never dreamt of when I grew up in a small in town in Germany with two TV network channels, a few awful radio programs and a fading signal from the Armed Forces Network. (Have you ever listened to the Super Bowl at 3am on the top of your house in 35 degrees because that’s the only place you could get a decent signal? Well, I did.)
Interactive Marketing is too often defined as selling things. The real potential of interactive marketing is relationship building – whether it’s groups of unbelievably loyal consumers sharing information, companies supporting online events and services that people use, making useful information available (not shilling information to sell) or interacting directly with consumers. The goal of each brand in the interactive space should be to give people choices. Nobody wants to be told what they want and what to do. The moment the ‘Mute’ button was added to the remote, people used it to have a conversation during commercials. When DVR’s started to become ubiquitous, people started to skip commercials altogether. And we got even more sophisticated when display ads reared their ugly head: We just became blind to them. No technology needed.
Besides some outliers, most marketers have accepted the rules have changed. But, we still play the outdated demographics game of trying to squeeze people into little boxes and messaging to them with even smaller messages. When traditional media reigned supreme, brands like Lexus targeted affluent professionals in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Print, TV and Radio could deliver that audience on a silver platter.
In the new marketing reality, I would rather build lexusbook.com or mylexusspace.com (I was never good at naming things) and connect with the fanatics of my brand. Develop relationships. Develop a community. Develop the brand through people.
Rather than lamenting the demise of traditional marketing and decline of performance metrics, brands need to grab this opportunity by the horns. The glass might be half-empty for selling things through marketing. But it’s overflowing for building relationships.