Jason Calacanis has me thinking about the online versions of communities we create, and about the role of community managers overall. It comes from a blog post pertaining to Facebook that Jason wrote recently. Here’s the spot that got me thinking:
Facebook is a multilevel marketing platform where you agree to pay attention to people’s gestures in the hopes that those people will pay-attention to your gestures in the future. It’s a gesture bank.
If we look at how most online communities are used, that’s what we do. We promote our thing that matters to us, and try to get you to do something related to that thing. Simpler words I can’t conjure. If I’m asking you to come to my conference, and telling you about it all the time, I’m compelled to listen to your pitches for your events or products, too.
So are we just marketing to each other?
If So, Is it Wrong?
I believe in the Trust Economy: that we are in a mode where we want to hear about things that matter to us from people we trust. Are all marketers trustworthy? Not a chance. Are all our friends remembering to disclose what they promote? Probably not. But don’t we determine this fairly quickly? If I’m writing about something that I have a relationship to, I will mention the relationship. But then again, I’m not a professional marketer. I’m not paid to hock products all day.
PR people, if you have built a community around yourself, are you using it as a channel to promote your clients? When I think of Doug Haslam, I don’t see him building platforms to flog his clients. He’s a participant. Sometimes, something is relevant to his client and he’ll Twitter as much, but he always discloses such.
Back to the question: if we ARE building groups and communications in this online world to convey the things we’re working on, is it bad/wrong?
Communities as Conversations
If The Cluetrain Manifesto predicted that advertising and marketing would shift into being conversations, perhaps this is simply what was meant. If we are rallying around the notion of getting to know the people behind the products and companies, perhaps these digital communities we’re building have something to do with this. I know Mario Sundar from LinkedIN, and Gina Bianchini from Ning, and Drew Olanoff from Pluggd. Does this mean I feel an affinity for these brand? Sure!
And all three of them approach community building a different way. Mario offers interesting think pieces about social media and marketing on his blog. Gina responds to emails I send before I hit “send.” Drew promotes what he’s using Pluggd for, and pointing out the good stuff. Value? Yes. All three methods have a value to me, and I don’t feel like I’m being advertised to from them.
Blogs and Facebook and Twitter and all these platforms we’re building are, to an extent, extensions of our personal branding. They become a rich experience in explaining who we are to others, what we believe, and our positions. Mitch Joel of Twist Image famously announced last year on a New Comm Road that he doesn’t hire someone who doesn’t blog.
Depending on HOW someone promotes themselves, I see no harm in this as being part of what they’re doing. I’ve come to learn that the best promoters of self are the ones who rarely talk about themselves. Instead, they interact, they point your attention towards others, they show you something of value. Those are the people who gain long term respect from me. So, if your blog or Facebook does that well, then it’s not a bad thing, in my estimation.
But Is That It?
If you look at all the places you frequent online, and take a closer look, are we all in cyclical Tupperware Parties? Are we all rallying around a glowing screen instead of a campfire? Are the songs we’re singing all company songs? According to Jason Calacanis, it certainly feels that way.
I think it is and it isn’t. I think this falls into the category of “our new way of working and living,” where the clock doesn’t exactly stop, but instead it shifts. I’m writing a blog post at my kitchen table, and this post relates to my work, but my work is my passion for communities. So, am I working? Is this in and of itself a marketing piece for you to assess whether I’m an authority on community? Or am I at home blogging because I like blogging? Both, of course. I’m working and I’m blogging for the love of it.
What’s your thought in all this?
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Photo credit, Williamli1983