The idea of “scale” in the digital, social, mobile world is something that has perplexed me over the past five years or so; really ever since the masses started pushing towards the adoption levels of maturity. Scale, to me, is a bit of an antiquated measurement in the “new way of marketing.” The idea that each message, regardless of media, must reach a massive amount of people in hopes that a decreasingly small fraction of individuals take action on a lead or purchase, is one that doesn’t begin to take into account the paradigm shift that digital has created; an individual paradigm. The role of a message or interaction in the digital space, most likely, isn’t for reach or scale for the consumer. It’s about something deeper, something more intimate.

Digital has the ability to segment or even dynamically personalize messages, offers, or experiences that produces a more profound output for a brand than a simple blanket message to drain money from an unsuspecting small percentage of the communicated universe. It allows for dynamic interaction; in real-time, wherever the consumer may be.

So when thinking digital, please don’t ever say the word “scale:” for it kills the opportunities before anything commences. Instead, think loyalty, advocacy, passion, lifetime value, and incremental purchase… Expand a relationship, don’t squander it by treating people like sheep. We have a great opportunity to think beyond traditional and think about the future of our brands.

Scale is in the long term, lifetime value of consumers, not universes reached.

*** Caveat, I’m not saying that awareness building campaigns shouldn’t be a part of the overall marketing strategy. They most definitely should be discussed and executed, even in the digital display arena. What I am saying, is allow yourself to segment, allow your consumers to segment themselves, reward them for doing so.

Community or Commodity

There has been something that’s been bugging me for the past few years. This is the word “community.” It has quickly become one of the most overused and improperly utilized words in the business buzz word dictionary. Why? Self-proclaimed “social media gurus” have diminished the absolute power of what a community is by associating anyone who “likes” a brand to get a coupon as being someone who is part of a brand culture, a subsection of a larger society, a group of individuals who align with specific characteristics and values, a community. But, as we all know, this is utter bullshit. Where is the loyalty on behalf of the coupon hound customer who is “liking” my page because I have a coupon, even if they are nowhere close to my target demographic? There is none. Once a competitor offers a better coupon they’re gone. Sayonara. Not someone whom I’d personally put stake in within my own communities. This level of engagement leads to a commoditized community based on commoditized offerings with no end goal of something deeper… “Communities” then just become another stat to communicate the success of a Facebook page.

Commoditizing a conversation forces engagement around features and benefits, not emotion.

But, for sake of communicating the valuable importance of this post, I will be using the term community (against my will) for what it truly is, as defined below.

So what is a community? defines it as “[a] group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.

Facebook defines these as “Groups.” Google+ defines them as “Circles.” Twitter even defines them as “Lists.” It seems as though the social space has really latched on to the idea of communities, but are we really setting our brands and companies up for success? Or are we approaching commoditized conversations with the real value exchange as being a coupon or an entry into a sweepstakes?

My personal thoughts, is that the end goal with any social venture is to develop and grow strong relationships with individuals whose values align with ours; whose ideals are shared among others; whose passions and affinities are aligned with those of our brand. Achieving this goal helps us create a place where like-minded individuals whose interests, values, and passions are shared; to develop a “community” around the core, emotionally driven differentiating factors of our brand. Doing so allows us to better understand and engage with those we serve. It provides us with the opportunity to learn and grow; make our products better; communicate them more effectively; identify opportunities for growth and expansion; and most of all, allows us to come together and accomplish the same goal, make our lives better.

So are you building a community or a commodity?

How To: Grow a Social Community

Social media is a strong force in the marketing world today. By utilizing the power of trust, sharing and interaction, brands can build personal relationships with individuals within a community to help meet business objectives (increased brand awareness, enhanced conversions, amplified customer service, etc). However, social media takes time and diligence to not only engage a community, but acquire and invite individuals to a value-added community.

The first step to a strong social media strategy and presence is the foundational community. Below are tactical activities a brand can perform to develop an acquisition strategy to build the most targeted, highly engaged community base and foundation. Working with a combination of Paid, Owned and Earned Media strategies, a brand will enhance its digital footprint and build the social credibility necessary to acquire the best community members.

Paid Media

Paid media is the easiest and most efficient way to generate a large number of Fans quickly. By using a combination of current traditional advertising and strategic social advertising, we can acquire and build a strong foundation of highly targeted, highly engaged individuals to our community. Below are some steps brands should take to begin integrating paid media into their acquisition strategy.

Engagement Ads. Drive awareness and engagement through the various types of ads that Facebook has available. The more engaging and relevant the ad, the more likely the user is to click and interact with it. Be sure to target the audience accordingly and align ad content with the interests of the user.

Promoted Tweets. Promote keywords or hashtags within tweets to drive awareness of an idea, theme or account. Aligning keywords with the brand message will ensure connection with the message.

Promoted Accounts. Twitter allows for accounts to be promoted on the “Logged in” Twitter home page. The promoted accounts will align with the content that the user has posted or has within his/her profile. Build the best following base by aligning content with brand messaging.

Use all paid and offline activities to increase awareness of the social platforms through traditional efforts. Examples could include tags on TV spots, print collateral, callouts on digital banners, in-store signage, etc.

Owned Media

As a brand, we own a lot of assets — website, micro sites, emails, other social platforms, etc. Through strategic placement and use of these assets, we can deliver a high level of community activation through owned media. Below are strategic examples of how to deliver results to community activation.

On site. Promote the social platforms on all websites with relevant and prominent calls to action on the page. For Facebook, a brand can use the “Like Box” plug-in to allow the visitor to “Like” the brand’s Facebook Fan page directly from the brand sites.

Email database. As with all websites, all email newsletters can have a callout and a link to the social platforms. When launching a new social platform, sending an email specifically announcing the launch will provide a great response and community growth.

Email signatures. Promoting all social platforms within company email signatures is a passive approach to drive awareness and acquisition to the social communities.

Cross-promote. When possible, cross-promoting the various social platforms on the other platforms in the community could be very beneficial. Promoting the content that is provided on the other social platforms could enhance this cross engagement and acquisition.

Incent community. Engaging and incenting the community that we acquire during activation or content activities can enhance reach and social credibility. Creating contests or sweepstakes that ask community members to upload content, share content or reach a certain number of fans has proven to be highly successful during acquisition campaigns.

Earned Media

Use the power of influential voices and social credibility to drive awareness, traffic and activation to a brand’s social community. Below are some activities a brand can perform to build a strong earned media acquisition strategy and ongoing stream of activation.

Influencer outreach. Use the power of influential voices by reaching out and building relationships with key influencers across channels. Develop a strategy to incent the influencers to discuss the brand efforts and drive traffic to the social platforms.

Content. Content is a strong driver for enhancing engagement and sharing, which in turn increases message reach, traffic to social sites and acquisition of new community members. The social credibility that the content interactions create builds stronger relationships with influential people in the community.

Enhance sharing. Engaging content is the first step to sharing. The second is to simply ask for it. With a strong relationship with our community members, we have enough trust to ask them to share content if they like it, which leads to reach, social credibility and community acquisition.

Third-party content creation. While building relationships with key influencers (both on and off of our social platforms) we can ask them to produce content for our social communities. This strategy will continue to enhance social credibility and increased reach through the influencer’s community and network.

Third-party content distribution. Vice versa. Influencers are continuously looking for valuable content for their network. With relationships built with key influencers, we can ask what type of content they are looking to create for their community and provide that content for them to distribute through their network. Delivering messages in this way will enhance our social credibility and will drive traffic and acquisition to our social communities.


Building a strong community is a strategic combination of advertising, relationship building and adding value every day for the social media strategy. Brands should ensure their digital and physical footprint is connected and cross-promoted to allow the most effective sharing of content and passing of information —all of which continues the acquisition of a community and adds value for its members.

Download the PDF:  How to: Grow a Social Community

Conversation Management

Manage the conversation or let it happen on its own? That’s the question that many of us marketers ask ourselves each and every day. As social media continues to thrive and content continues to surface surrounding our brands, we can physically see the conversation happening but are paralyzed as to what can we (or can’t) do about it? So, what should we do?

The crazy thing about conversations… They have been happening long before anyone had ever said the word “social” before “media.” Word of mouth has always been, and will continue to be, the most powerful form of marketing to ever grace our planet. So the conversation piece has been and will always be there. However, with new technologies consumers have facilitated their personal conversations with technology creating a quicker response to their requests and having almost real time engagements with their personal network. So, now the conversation is happening, in a public, digital forum, where we are actually given the opportunity and the green light to participate in these conversations.

But, with this same technology, we, as marketers, can now better manage these conversations and guide consumers towards the most logical, rational, educated decision possible; one that may not include a purchase of our product, but educates the consumer in the benefits for our product. These technologies allow us to listen and engage individuals across multiple touchpoints both online and off. Hell, I’m writing this post from my little Blackberry while waiting for the 1, 2, 3 train as it allows me full access to you in an interactive and engaging way.

So let’s think about it, what if we as marketers put the same conversational activity in place? What if we facilitated and managed conversations that were happening rather than letting them happen and sit from the sideline? What if we empowered individuals looking for answers during the purchase phase to fully consider our products in their own purchase journey? What if we were always only “one click away” whether online or in the physical space?

How would that change the conversation? How would that impact our conversions?

We have a unique opportunity. The power is in our hands and the need is with our customers to manage a conversation towards the best possible outcome. We need to embrace what we have been given and openly talk with our community and have real, honest conversations and lead them down a path of complete enlightenment, whatever that may look like for them.