talking dust: you cannot harness the power

Buzz words, and buzzing phrases… it’s intriguing to see how concepts that made perfect sense when they were first used,  gradually erode to the dust of absolute hollow meaninglessness…

The phrase I heard most so far at #canneslions is “harnessing the power of communities”. Seriously, every keynote or seminar I went to, used it: harnessing the power of communities. People on stage trying to make us understand that, regardless if you’re in communications, marketing or media buying, you need to aim at that community. And… harness it’s power. Whatever that means.

What rubs me the wrong way is the directional connotation that the new buzz phrase has. Go harness the power of the community. The community is your target. Go, mighty marketing soldiers… go, and harness its power.

I do not see it work. If a community is your target you will fail, miserably. The secret potion of success lies in understanding the community, finding common grounds and interest points, and creating a partnership that is built upon mutual respect. To make it work, you’ll need engagement… and regardless how well you target the community, and how desperate you want to harness its power… well, you simply cannot. Because engagement and interaction comes from them, the people within the community. They will choose whether or not you’re interesting, funny, nice, intriguing and adorable enough for them to invest some of their energy in you.

See, the power of a community exists. It’s pure magic… but you cannot harness it. The power of a community is a precious gift, and rather than go and conquer it, you’ll have to earn it.

Earning trust and respect, that will lead towards engagement, is a social skill. The social in Social Media was not put there by mistake…

So, stop talking dust…

Social Media : « Do, or Do not… there is no try » (Master Yoda)

Every time people come up to my office, call me or send me an email asking for a Twitter strategy, a Facebook strategy, or a YouTube strategy, I get an uncontrollable urge to rebuild their outer hull with the help of a pneumatic hammer and an icepick.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and tutti quanti are no strategies, they are not even tactics. They are simple tools, channels to convey a message. It’s simple. Think about an overall objective, build an overall strategy, and look what tactics and tools you need to achieve your goal. Success is often not  in the little details, but in big holistic, structural approaches like the planning of your community engagement :-).

When rightly integrated in an overall marketing and communications approach, digital and social media will help move the needle in a nice and measurable way, but are not a miracle recipe. No social campaign can make a crappy product look shiny, and no YouTube video can correct a manifest lack of vision. Success comes first with companies who value their audiences, and invest in the courtesy to listen to their market, and respond and act upon it.

Building a social capital requires listening first, and adequate responding after. It asks for building mutual understanding and trust. In short, it plays on the middle to long run. It’s not a quick-win/harvest soon methodology. Like most investments, you’re in for the long haul…  you will get longstanding dividends.  Just a quick dip in social media waters to test the temperature will not do, and is not done…  As social engagement plays out on the longer run, you cannot pull out early of the game. You commit, or not. Like there is no way to be a “bit pregnant”, there is no way of being “a bit social”.

Yoda said it wisely: “Do, or do not… there is no try!”.

My “check-in” beats your “like” anytime

For brands, creating engagement in any way is key… that’s why they are in social media in the first place. In recent months, a telltale signal to determine that engagement at a glance is the number of “likes” a brand collects all through the brands online ecosphere. Fueled by mostly Facebook, the hunt for likes is powering an important part of the Social Media roll out, and, between us: that is a bad thing.

A number of “likes” does not show you in any way the quality or quantity of engagement with your target audience in any way… for that more intelligent sets of data should be explored that give more relevant information on quality, sentiment, loyalty and behavior.

And a “like” is just a wrong metric. Clicking on it is often a gratuit gesture… for most consumers it means nothing more than a thoughtless “click”.  There is no bar, no effort, no real thinking, and thus way too often no real intention or engagement.

Personally, I have more respect for the location based check in. A check in, is like a “like”, but only better. Checking in means that people are linking their real life location and behavior (shopping, eating, going to a concert,…) with their offline social media ecosphere. They went through an experience that reverberates in the social spider web. Location based social check-ins are more and more combined with the ability to rate the experience, adding a tremendous potential added value for the brand. Having people checking in from stores, airports, planes, restaurants and events and giving a positive social rating turns every active “checker” into an active brand advocate.

People will trust the review of someone who actively ate at a restaurant way more than one from someone who just punched the “like” button on a website.

Check-ins new style will beat up likes big time 😉

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