|Nell Happy ending 2006, granite, 90 x 70 x 20 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.|
1. Restore community marketing. Used properly, social media is accelerating a trend in which buyers can increasingly approximate the experience of buying in their local, physical communities.
Companies should position their social media efforts to replicate as much as possible this community-oriented buying experience. In turn, social media firms, such as Facebook, should become expert at enabling this. They can do this by expanding the buyer's network of peers who can provide trustworthy information and advice based on their own experience with the product or service.
2. Find your customer influencers. Many firms spend lots of resources pursuing outside influencers who've gained following on the Web and through social media. A better approach is to find and cultivate customer influencers and give them something great to talk about. This requires a new concept of customer value that goes way beyond customer lifetime value (CLV), which is based only on purchases. There are many other measures of a customer's potential value, beyond the money they pay you. For example, how large and strategic to your firm is the customer's network? How respected is she?
3. Get your customer advocates involved in the solution you provide. Perhaps the most spectacular example of this comes from the non-profit world. Some years ago, with the number of teen smokers nation-wide rising to alarming levels, the State of Florida thought anew about its decades-long effort to reduce the problem. What could be more difficult than convincing teen smokers to quit — a problem that Malcolm Gladwell had said couldn't be solved. Using the techniques for building a community of peer influence, Florida solved it. They sought influential teen "customers" such as student leaders, athletes, and "cool kids," who weren't smoking or who wanted to quit — and instead of pushing a message at them, they asked for the students' help and input.
Approached in this new way, some 600 teens attended a summit on teen smoking, where they told officials why anti-smoking efforts in the past hadn't worked — dire warnings about the health consequences of smoking, or describing the habit as "being gross," left them unimpressed. On the spot, the teens brainstormed a new approach: they were outraged by documents showing that tobacco company executives were specifically targeting teens to replace older customers who'd died (often from lung cancer). And so the teens formed a group called SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) who organized train tours and workshops, sold T-shirts and other appealing activities to take their message into local communities. The result: despite a vicious counterattack by Big Tobacco lobbying firms, teen smoking in Florida dropped by nearly half between 1998 and 2007 — by far the biggest success in anti-teen-smoking in history.
So can you. Traditional marketing may be dead, but the new possibilities of peer influence-based, community-oriented marketing, hold much greater promise for creating sustained growth through authentic customer relationships.