I am excited to be in planning mode with my co-presenters for an upcoming workshop at WeMedia ’09 next week in Miami.
BlogTalkRadio’s John Havens, Divine Caroline‘s Suha Araj, the Washington Times‘ Chuck DeFeo and I will be leading a workshop on growing community in a variety of different business contexts. While prepping for this, I started thinking more about Mack Collier’s thoughts about Why Your Community Building Efforts Aren’t Working. In this post, he hits on the disconnect between what most companies want (to market) and what their customers do not want from a community (to be marketed to).
So what is a brand marketer, digital strategist, or even a brand FAN to do to cross this chasm? To address this in the positive, I want to quote another great thinker in the space – the head of creative for Ogilvy Interactive Jan Leth. In a recent presentation on the future of advertising, he discusses the new organizing principle for brands and communities: Value Exchange
“The key to engagement with consumers is reciprocity or “value exchange”. Consumers must get entertainment, utility, or information out of their engagement.”
So begin not by thinking about what you can “get” from your customers in a social media environment, but what you can provide them. This could be great stories, the chance to know things first or you could simply be providing them with the utility of a place to congregate and talk amongst themselves. The key is in the audience centric approach. This same principle (the JFK “Ask Not…” principle) applies to any strategy involving blogger outreach as well.
My one potential addition to the list of ways to provide value through entertainment, utility, or information is validation. I believe that a brand demonstrating it is listening and human, even when it can not change or solve a business issue, can drive loyalty and continued community. Projects like MyStarbucksIdea and Ideastorm demonstrate this on a large scale – thousands of ideas, only a few of which make it into the business model, but all with their day in front of the brand and to be judged up or down the priority list by the court of public opinion. Validation has emotional value only, but people will keep coming back for it.
For those unable to join in Miami, I’ll publish our collective list of killer community growth principles later next week.