You can’t just build it. You have to walk them in the door.
The old idea of “if you build it, they will come” doesn’t seem to work for websites (78). Not sure if it ever did. It definitely doesn’t in today’s attention economy. Websites serve as reflections of organizations, and companies are fighting for consumer attention on these sites. What makes a visitor stay for 10 seconds? 30? A few minutes? What content sets allrecipies.com apart from foodnetwork.com?
Larry Weber’s second edition of “Marketing to the Social Web” explores the ins and outs of the social web in three sections: landscape, actionable steps to building customer communities—an essential component of a successful social web strategy, and online conduit strategies. One of the biggest additions to this edition is his coverage of social media measurement (so big that he adds it on the cover).
The book is full of best practices, theory, case studies and even how-tos—a handbook for veteran and new marketers and communicators that essentially emphasizes the concept of moral purpose in branding (18), the importance of conversation and listening (33), and the concept that everything old is new again (195). Beginning with a foreword by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, and outlines an essential premise for crowdsourcing: humans thrive on interaction and connection, namely community (ix). He goes on to say that Weber gets that this is a vital understanding to new marketing, which isn’t really selling, but building community and engaged participants that lead to sales and brand loyalty (x).
Get a Moral Compass
Weber talks repeatedly about the concept of moral purpose and its role in branding. His operating definition of moral purpose is this: a brand’s ability to offer value and transparency in the way they do business (18). Weber uses Ford, the car company, in an exercise in marketing to the social web. He poses questions that get readers to understand the steps necessary in transitioning from old to newer marketing concepts: assessment of past efforts, preparing a consumer map, identifying low hanging fruit—natural Ford communities, SWOT analysis, consumer advisory panels and encouraging dialogue and inviting customers to build the future of the brand (46-47). Examples like this, where Weber poses a scenario or marketing need and does a flyover with readers, are found all over the book. Essentially, he takes readers from point A to point B without feeling overwhelmed.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Your customers (and potential customers), Weber says, are more in control of what they read, hear, and watch. And not only do they want to talk to other people, they want you—the marketer—to listen to them (33). If this doesn’t sum up today’s marketing ecosystem, I don’t know what does. The most helpful piece I found about this section is Table 3.1—a matrix that compares old marketing components to new marketing (34-35). Weber notes that the changing your marketing mindset isn’t the first step in a 12-step program, but it is essential to positioning oneself to approach components like brand equity, segmentation, targeting and communication that lead to payment (34).
Weber reminds us that as new as the social web and its networks may seem, it’s not. The concept of community is as old as human existence—it’s just moved to virtual spaces and are now seen in communities through Ning, Facebook, and the like. From the in-person networks like sewing circles or Lions Club that my parents were a part of, to photography communities like dgrin.com or Volunteer communities like volunteermatch.org that I participate in, there is no wonder why online social networks have seen such success. Community groups have segmented themselves into broad and niche communities, filled with passionate people.
As someone who wound up in the marketing world through social media, I found Weber’s book to be one of those essentials I’d keep in my library. The book reads like a conversation, providing examples to concepts, asking questions, and breaking down new marketing in terms anyone could understand. But it isn’t watered down. Weber understands the concerns that veteran marketers have about the shift to conversations rather than pitches and broadcasts, and the fears that accompany learning new media. He also doesn’t leave out the importance of search engine optimization (92) and measurement (113) and the tendency to “set it and forget it” (139).
This book has really summed up many of the foundational pieces we are taught in MCDM: the need for transparency and authenticity in brand representation, blogging to raise brand awareness and gain trust and the fact that the community is moving the needle—not marketing teams.
This piece was submitted as an assignment for MCDM 546 course: Evolutions and Trends in Digital Media.
Weber, L. (2009). Marketing to the Social Web. New Jersey: Wiley & Sons, Inc.