Last night I watched a new President of the United states address an onlooking nation planet about how his supporters came together for a common goal and overcame what many thought would never happen.
Not only did I watch this historic moment on television, I shared it with close friends in a living room.
Not only did I share this historic moment with them, I got to share it with thousands and thousands of other people on Twitter.
We are obsessed with Twitter. It’s a website. It’s a messaging tool. It’s become a development platform, and it’s arguably a protocol. It’s a point of reference. It’s an expression of ego.
But I don’t think that’s why we’re obsessed. I think we’re obsessed because Twitter does something that we long for: it facilitates shared experiences. Twitter, and many other pieces of social technology encourage shared experiences.
Social Media has been purported as a key to the shift in bi-directional communication in PR. That’s great and all, but I’m not sure how long the interest in being able to “talk back to the television” will remain meaningful. I mean how many times have we yelled at the screen and had it do nothing? Just because a human is on the other end of a commercial doesn’t complete the engagement cycle.
So currently, a lot of PR and marketing peeps are trying to get their heads wrapped around the best way to use the tools to engage with their communities. Here’s the kicker: I think they’re working too hard at the wrong thing.
Buzz monitoring has become one of the more common metrics being used right now, and I do believe there is value there. Quite a bit. The adoption of the metrics that can be gleaned from buzz tracking is important, but in this case, I don’t think it’s the point. In my mind, the need for buzz tracking identifies one very, very important metric that seems to be getting overlooked. Buzz tracking identifies that people are talking to each other.
That’s the most important thing.
Once your potential users, users, or ex-users are talking about you, you’ve won. You’ve got their attention, and they’ll broadcast every single thing you do. And, they’ll do it without you having to ask.
Take note: I’ve yet to say that anything about creating a community of users.
Why? It’s not that much work. Once you’ve got more than one user, you’ve got the makings of a community. A great community. A community that you didn’t have to create, it exists simply by being.
I know what you’re thinking…two people standing on either side of an dance floor make for a pretty boring party. Just because you put people in a room doesn’t make it a party, and just because you have more than 2 users doesn’t mean you’ve got a community.
But the game changes once you get them talking to one another. And that’s the role, the unsung metric of buzz tracking. Knowing that the conversations are going on at all, and being able to scan the proverbial room to make sure everyone’s got a full glass, is your most valuable asset.
So let’s move on.
Hear me now, marketing and PR people: people talking about you does not open the door for you to talk about you. Showing up in a conversation about you (or heck, your competition) to talk about yourself is not going to help your cause. It’s like walking up to two people at the cocktail party who are already conversing conversation and blurting out
“HAI, MAI NAYME IZ ALEX AND I LIKE TWEETER TOO!”
It’s not accepted at cocktail parties, and it’s not OK online, either.
What is ok? Be a good cocktail host. If you are listening in on the other guests at the party, be a facilitator. Make sure that their drinks are full, that they are enjoying themselves, and that they get a chance to meet as many guests as possible.
Your role as the social marketeer, the business, or the brand should be the same.
It’s counter intuitive, I know.
You’re used to talking about you. Cut that shit out. Please.
There’s an exception: customer service. The downside to that? Customer service through buzz tracking (be it blogs and twitter) still only service the “elite” technophiles who’ve adopted those tools. Sure, I like that as a blogger/twitter user, I can mention a company and they show up with VIP service. But, as Dave Troy pointed out at Social Dev Camp East, if they aren’t putting energy into improving the customer service measures they already have in place, they are effectively ignoring the majority of the current problems. I like that I’m benefiting from being ahead of the curve, and getting that VIP treatment. But when my mom’s cable goes out, she’s not going to bitch about it on twitter, and she’ll end up frustrated sitting on the phone.
Back to my point about being involved in the consumer’s experience. That experience needs to be like oxygen: it needs to be everywhere (ubiquity), it needs to not feel like work (transparency), and it needs to be something that they feel like they can’t live without (necessary).
You need to make this conversation about them if you’re going to play along.
Be a good cocktail host.
Throw a great cocktail party.
Throw such a great party that everyone talks about how great the party was. And then you can watch the buzz take a life of its own
As a brand, business, or marketer, it’s your job to make the shared experience worth sharing.
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