Are you speaking with or at the communities you wish to market to? In order to be successful in either social or email marketing, one needs to understand what drives the web and devote the time and passion to be a part of it.
During one episode of the classic sci-fi series Babylon 5, an alien ambassador is attempting to express the unique qualities of humanity. She speaks of our seemingly inherent need to create communities. Wherever we go, she says, we build and nurture them. While considering the stunning implications of Drake equation I might have to disagree about the uniqueness of the trait. I surely can’t argue that for us, forming communities is bred in the bone.
Since the earliest days of human kind we have come together out of necessity and our instinct for survival. We have a need to share ourselves — an imperative driven by desperation to exceed the smothering limitations of our bodies. Temples they may be, but these shrines float as islands in a frustratingly isolated sea of humanity. This species imperative drives us to congregate, build and often prove that indeed the sum is greater than its parts.
With the need to form communities being hard coded into us, it’s no surprise that the first thing people did online was start building them. Even before the internet we had communities on the old dial-in BBS or Bulletin Board Systems (ARPANET too was community driven). The name is fitting; BBS was essentially the digital equivalent of those bulletin boards you see outside of grocery stores or perhaps in your local church lobby. However, the boards themselves were not the community. They were simply the conduit or tool used by people with common interests to form communities. The internet is no different.
The software and hardware of the web only provides the functionality for communities to operate on. It has absolutely no depth or substance whatsoever without people coming together with common interests and goals. Take this away and you have an internet which is as dynamic as a blinking C: prompt.
It is in fact our desire to commune which has driven the communication revolution that is the web. In only a decade we’ve seen fundamental changes to things as basic as how we perceive time and how we interact even on a daily basis. “Did you get that email I sent you?” is quickly becoming a standard greeting in most offices. The water cooler is now relegated to a dark nook of the staff kitchen because with IM. Twitter, Facebook and SMS, no one requires the prop anymore.
Sure you can attempt to contradict me by stating that the web is actually eroding community bonds, turning us into a society of high tech hermits, but this trend didn’t start with the internet. We started building backyard decks rather than large front porches long before the net revolution. The 6 foot high wooden walls replaced the 4 foot high chain link fence a while back. No, I would say blaming the web for this is far too convenient and far too simplistic a view when trying to explain the foibles of humans.
We are drawn to them like a tongue to a fractured molar. These communities of friends and foes, heroes and villains, profits and madmen – they reflect our best dreams and our worst nightmares. They shock and outrage us. They lift and inspire by reminding us that even in our weakest moments, we are not alone.
If you don’t have someone in your organization focused on representing your brand online and interacting with these communities via social media and email, you could be in for rough times ahead.
Takeaway: The internet is driven by communities and without them it’s basically one big strip mall with infinite parking.