Marketing has taken a new look as we enter the digital age. Companies are now looking for a new way to reach customers. They are reaching them in different ways because their customers are finding them in different ways. With everyone, even my 84 year old grandmother, searching the global market through Google, and getting recommendations from every friend in Facebook, Myspace, YouTube and in circles like Twitter with their options to buy or find services and products, businesses are clamoring for the attention of people. The new look and feel of marketing is participation, or what I have been calling participatory marketing.
Social media is really nothing more that participation in a social structure using different tools. All of the vehicles I mention above are merely a community of people. Like a block party where everyone gathers. An online neighborhood. They talk about their lives, they talk about their kids, they stand around the water cooler now known as their computer screen. They talk about you, your business, your product and your service.
Companies are trying to work their way into these communities now and they want to be the most noticed person at the party. The problem is that many of them are doing it wrong. They participate in the community but don’t provide anything of value. I’m not talking about walking into the party and handing out coupons for $5 off your $100 ice cream scoop. That is the way most are doing it. I’m talking about actually participating. Getting into a community of us Daddies and talking about how your 6 month old kept you all up all night is the conversation starter and ice breaker that works to get an in, but again companies open with that and then turn around and say, “Now download my sidebar widget thingy.” Again, what does that have to do with a sleepless night unless my 6 month old is put to sleep by your product? It takes a while for you to be in the group before I want to be approached for life changing conversations, like here let me help you buy a new home. Perhaps I should be calling this Kumbaya Marketing.
It takes a while for you to be in my group long enough to give me marital advice or if you want me to buy your stuff. Some of the companies have already been in my group a while. Some of the big brands and major companies are a part of our everyday lives and they can leverage that into instant credibility. If you come to my community for instance and say hey look at this cool Mac Book Pro, chances are we will all look and perhaps buy. If you want me to send you $100 to have me try your latest blue pill that will change my life, I will probably have to get to know you first.
[photo via mikebaird]*
*Not really relevant to participatory marketing but that is the point. Be relevant. That is one cute critter though. Since we are talking about Otters, check out Otter Box. See what I mean? No they are not a client, but they are a cool company that is using social media. They have been in my community a little. Now if I could get them to send me a new Blackberry case with the actual Blackberry in it.