You might learn more about advertising by watching this 6-minute clip, featuring Dan Wieden of W+K fame, than at any conference. His main thoughts are:
1. Commercials are seen as conversation starters.
2. The business is not about selling stuff. It’s about creating strong, provocative relationships between good companies and their customers. You need to feed the relationship first before you can feed the business.
3. There’s a huge opportunity in the interaction of screens, how can we create innovative concepts?
I don’t agree with him that is not about selling. Still, I believe advertising should be less about transactions and more about relationships. That’s what we want, don’t we?
Facebook is a terrible tool to build communities outside of your immediate friends and family. It’s a good platform to maintain existing relationships. It performs badly when it comes to creating new communities based on shared interests. I’m still active in many forums and stats show they tend to build powerful, long-lasting communities.
The emergence of niche networks.
Big social networks have received all the attention in recent years but the real action happens in community forums. There are millions of these sites that have a combined audience comparable to Facebook. The one big advantage Facebook offers for marketers: Scale. It’s so much easier to communicate a message on a unified platform compared to millions of communities, often behind password walls.
In addition, you need to be passionate about specific topics: Unless you’re into Dubstep in Brazil, why would you ever know about forums discussing that topic? Or baseball forums in Germany. Sumo forums in Los Angeles. Bobblehead forums. These forums are surprisingly popular and extremely resilient because of their community bond. For every interest there is an online community to accomodate: fishing, hiking, TV shows, Rugby, Bakersfield fans – you name it. They live and grow every day even if you know nothing about them.
I joined a EDM (Electronic Dance Music) forum in 2000 and still participate every day. The conversation has transformed from sharing club experiences to political discussions, parenting issues, travel advice, general entertainment. I’ve never met 99% of the community but we’re a lively bunch and engage on a daily basis. It’s fascinating to experience this use of the Web and the untouchable strength of community.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to engage in niche networks
Facebook has become the Microsoft of Social Networks. It’s there, you can’t escape it but you don’t love it. We use it every day but we are really not passionate about it. I’m sure Facebook will be around for years to come, just like Microsoft won’t disappear. The real love and passion happens in niche networks. By integrating more social features into their forums, niche communities will soon begin to have their heyday. Soon means about now.
All this talk about Facebook and Twitter have distracted from one the most important strengths of the digital medium: bringing people together to form a community. The current Forums 1.0 will soon be transformed into more advanced and socialized forums.
Scale is important.
The bond and passion of a community is more important. And a much better playground for your brand.
Marketers love to capture people. That’s especially true in digital marketing. We always try to find new ways and traps to keep people on our site. We make it hard for people to leave the site, creating overcomplicated processes, filling phone menus with promotional messages, trying to up-sell people throughout the whole ecommerce check-out process.
We act like jealous lovers, afraid that if they leave us they will never think about us again. It’s become so hard and expensive to get the attention of people, once we have just speck of it, we never want to let go. Often people just want to get something done and then move on. They don’t want interaction, experiences or anything that prevents them from getting on with their lives. Think Redbox, ticket machines at a Subway, a soft drink vending machine.
People are feeling overwhelmed with all the information bombarding them all day long. Somebody tells them about a new luxury car: They just want to read a quick summary. They don’t want to test drive it, they don’t want to request a quote, they don’t want to get re-targeted all day. They wanted information, they got it. Thank you very much. Let me get on with my day.
You’re walking a fine line when you constantly remind them of your presence. You might become the annoying guy that talked to a girl once and now thinks she’s in love. She might fall for him one day but not if he badgers her with messages, love letters and other reminders of his presence each and every day. Or, even worse, traps her, making it hard for her to leave.
Real relationships are patterns of mutual investment. You invest in me. I invest in you. If all investments come from one side, you don’t have a real relationship. You have an imaginary relationship.
Next time you invest money in capturing, trapping and locking people in, ask yourself: Would you want to be treated like that? By anyone? Or would you want companies to invest in relationships of mutual respect? Based on a basic understanding of human desires, needs and mutual value exchange. (While writing this, I couldn’t stop humming “Free, free, set them free.”)
Brands are addicted having relationships with people. They build Customer Relationship Management systems, 360 models of customer relationships, measure the number of followers and “likes”.
What kind of relationship are we talking about?
When I was 13 in summer camp, I started a “relationship” with a girl. After a few days of staring at each other, blushing and looking away, she found the courage to ask me if she could be my girlfriend. I said yes. Both of us had no clue what that meant or what the relationship of boyfriend/girlfriend entails. So, we continued to stare at each other, blush and look away. I think I held her hand once for a minute. A few days later, camp ended. We never saw each other again.
We’re dealing with the same kind of confusion when talking about relationships between people and brands. Since people don’t care that much having relationships with brands, the onus is on companies to define the desired relationships with customers before engaging with them. Is your brand a partner, an advisor, a consultant, butler, temporary guest, friend, acquaintance, enemy, drinking buddy, bro, BFF?
The rise of the Social Web has allowed to form larger number of weak social ties. And they allow us to connect with people just on the basis of shared views, preferences, ideas or “likes”. That doesn’t mean I want to hear from them daily, weekly or even monthly. Instead, I want to interact with them when they need help and I can provide them with value. Or vice versa. I would argue, that’s where most brands should start when engaging in the Social Web. Help people get things done. Be a butler. A servant. An advisor. A consultant.
And, maybe, just maybe, one day both will walk off into the fog, saying: “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
A farmer by definition is a person who cultivates the land. A gardener by definition is a person who cultivates seedlings and their offspring for growth. Sure, farmer and gardener both cultivate. But there is a difference – and it’s a huge one – the difference between a farmer and a gardener is what they cultivate, how they cultivate it and what happens to what is cultivated.
- Are you raising your relationships on Social Media for just a season or do you raise them to be transplanted? Farmers cultivate crops for consumption (offers, coupons, # of fans and likes, etc.), plants are cultivated for growth and transplanting (developing real relationships/connections, Social CRM)
- Do you care about the roots of the crops? Farmers do somehow, but the roots cannot grow too deep. In contrast to the gardener, the farmer cannot allow a crop’s roots to get to the depth that will generate new growth or new life because that takes time and crops are just cultivated for a season.
- Do you cultivate shallow roots (relationships) to harvest them easily? Or do you care deeply about your crop, focusing on building strong roots?
- Do you cultivate the soil (Social Platforms) by hand (Gardener) or by a plow? (Farmer) Are you cultivating by the human touch or by the cutting touch of a tool?
- Do you consider your audience a crop (a commodity, here for a short time) or a plant (a thing of beauty, filling you with a sense of pride)?
- Are you cultivating for consumption or to grow something special?
Being a farmer cultivate is not a bad thing. We just have to understand and be very clear with everybody that farmers grow for one season and when the season is over, the farmer has gained value but the crop which was grown is now harvested.
The gardener, on the other hand, understands that the relationship between him and the plant is one of growth and time. There’s a huge commitment of time and money that is needed to make the growth come forth.