What makes good Social Media Marketing?
OK, that seems a bit too easy… so maybe a trip down memory lane might show up a few hints: Let’s remember who were the first “social networkers”… It’s a bit debatable, but a list of the first social media websites probably looks something like this:
1999: AsianAvenue and BlackPlanet
… lots of websites in the middle…
Thus, apart from sixdegrees.com, all of the first social networking websites were targeted at minorities: sexual minorities or ethnic minorities (I have the feeling a few other minorities could probably be added to this – but I’m basing this on an article by boyd and Ellisson, who list the main social networking sites). The obvious question is why would this be the case? Well, a possible explanation might be that an important function of [online] social networks is social support, that is, they give members of a community easy access to knowledge about practices and behaviours of “people like me” (aka ‘Mi Gente’ in Spanish). Therefore, the original social networks were a tool for free self-expression, even for self-validation, in a world of a perceived hostile majority community. They enabled living out one’s ideas, one’s “real” identity, although “just” in a virtual space, where community members were “not the weirdest kids in their class”.
Of course, social media has spread well beyond ethnic or sexual minority groups. But, the mechanics are pretty much the same: People are using social networks to find and communicate with other people “like me”. Brands and products are subtle clues about finding other “people like me” in the real world: Think Abercrombie and gay (see this discussion, for example). In other words, if your brand has a signal status of belonging to a particular group, then social networks – online and offline, are going to talk about your brand, like your brand, maybe even follow your brand on social networks. Of course, at that stage most of the followers are already customers… they are part of the “brand community” (I use this a bit loosely here, sorry to my fellow marketing academics). So what can you do to increase your brands emotional bond to the community? Overt sales offers? Certainly not. Clear support for the agenda of your community? Most certainly yes!In other words: Act like a supportive friend. Like someone who really cares what happens to the community members – not someone who wants to sell something. Of course, that is actually simply good marketing: the definition of marketing from the AAA emphasises offering something “of value”. In social networks the value of your offering is social – it’s the value of being a friend to your followers!