The following is guest post by Larry Weber , chairman of Racepoint Group and Digital Influence Group , two agencies in the next-generation marketing services ecosystem, W2 Group. Be sure to also check out Larry's book, Marketing to the Social Web and tune into HubSpot.tv tomorrow at 4 p.m. EDT for an interview with Larry.
Communications is at the beginning of a new world ... a world called the "social web."
When I say "social web," I mean any web site that allows comments and contributions from other people. As you can probably tell from your own experience, it's a fast-paced, open environment that is changing the way people communicate with each other. In turn, it's changing the role of marketers.
Marketing to the social web doesn't require you to forget everything you know about marketing. It does, however, require you to open your mind to new possibilities, social change, and rethinking past practices.
Broadcasting marketing messages to an increasingly indifferent, even resentful, audience jaded by the 2,000+ messages that bombard the average American daily is no longer going to be effective. Instead of continuing as broadcasters, marketers are becoming aggregators of customer communities. Marketers should participate in, organize and encourage social networks to which people want to belong. Rather than talking at people, marketers should talk with them. And the social web is the most effective way to do that on a large scale.
Ultimately, marketing disappears if it does its job right, because marketers become purveyors of environment.
So how exactly can you "make marketing disappear"? You build communities of interest and help members find what they want to make their lives more fulfilling. I break down the process for building a community into seven practical steps:
1. Observe and create a customer map - Get into social media and the blogosphere to understand the most influential places in the social web. Who is talking about what? What place (if any) does you company have in the conversation?
2. Recruit community members - Once you have determined who and where your targets are, you enlist a core group of people who want to talk about your company and product.
3. Evaluate platforms - There are four main online conduit strategies: reputation aggregators, blogs, e-communities, social networks. Which one will help you achieve your marketing goals?
4. Engage the community in conversation - This is where content matters. You need to balance user-generated and enterprise-generated content to foster dialogue.
5. Measure the community's involvement - Over time, you'll see what your community members connect with and determine the most relevant metrics.
6. Promote your community to the world - While some sites do not need much promotion, most do. You can bring people to your "party" by going to theirs.
7. Improve the community's benefits - You need to give people reasons to stay at your party and invite others to join. Stay tuned into what is and is not working, and find ways to make the community more convenient, useful, friendly and rewarding.
A community will not run itself, but by giving members a stake in your community, they'll stick around and help it thrive.
We're at the beginning of the social web, but marketers should dive in now. If you wait, your competitors will have figured out how to attract your customers to their environments - and you'll have to work that much harder to get them back.