Sunday newspapers came into my mind as a way of considering this whole world of social media. There are a few ways to work your way through a Sunday paper, and I might suggest that these same few ways make for a useful analogy to how a company might approach social media. Let’s start with picking up a Sunday paper at the corner store and see what we get.
Three Kinds of Readers
First, there are three types of Sunday paper readers (four if you accept hybrids). The first kind wants to catch up on the week’s news. The second wants the ads, and doesn’t much care that there’s a paper at all. The third wants to know what there is to DO in the coming week(s). So, there’s someone who wants information, someone who wants sales and bargains and to consume, and someone who wants to take action.
What are the things we do online? We look for information, buy things, and take action of some kind. So far so good.
If you’re a company hoping to engage people online, there are a few ways to participate with information. First, you can build really good information about your products or services online. Details, the stuff people want to know. I’m forever amazed when companies stop where they do with their online materials. There are marketing blurbs and then there’s good juicy text. Some folks want the overview, and others want the guts. It’s the Internet. Offer both.
Another point here: find the bloggers who might care about your products and services and ideas and share as much as you can with them. Note that I said the ones who might care, not just anyone with an audience. Finding people to write about your stuff is important, but finding people who might already care about that space is really the point.
Make it about them: showcase your creators, the users of your products or services, and even more powerful, show them how to interact with each other.
In social network terms, do your customers and clients already hang out in a certain kind of network? Are they more the kind who’d use Flickr or Digg or Facebook, or do you have to give them a new place to go? Think first about the places where they are, and then, if no one’s serving your community, consider building some place simple for people to come and share in their experiences.
Bonus points: don’t make it about your company. Make it about the space where your company plays. If you’re a camera company, make a cool place for people to talk about photography and share photos (oh wait, Flickr, and Zooomr and SmugMug already exist). Make it about the place where your prospective customers exist, not about your product line.
The Ads Section
You know how to do banner ads and text ads and you might know how to do affiliate advertising and maybe even affiliate marketing. But there are lots of other opportunities to try new things in this space. Let’s break away from the restrictions of online advertising or print or the differences between marketing and ads. Let’s think instead about why CONSUMERS think to look at the ads section.
Here are a few reasons why I do:
- I’m curious what’s new I might not have seen some other way.
- I plan to go shopping and want to find the best prices.
- I am going to buy item X anyhow, and might as well look for a coupon
There are tons more ways you can slice this, and in the online space, there are mixes of these things happening all the time. Sometimes, we want something specific and we want to understand where we can get it, and what the best price might be. Many other times, we don’t yet know about this thing you want to tell us about, or we haven’t thought about you lately, or we haven’t thought about you in the way you WISH we thought about you.
Or, you have too much product and not enough buyers. You have a big event and targets to hit. That’s the stuff we trigger from from the marketing/advertising side of the equation. That’s the whole backbeat to most of this, right?
But remember, we have attention span issues. We have not enough time issues. We have “Don’t pitch me, bro!” issues. And we’re not here just to hear about your products and services. We might be here for other things, too.
My advice: empower the people who DO potentially want to know about what you’re doing. Give them ways to collaborate, to share, to tell others what you’re up to, even in the broad sense. Give them samples. Share the excitement.
Where the Internet and social media rocks is that it’s just far more cost effective to make an impression, even a trackable impression. If a radio spot talking about your nifty new point and click camera is $15,000 USD, and it reaches a gazillion people, do you know how much of that comes back to the bottom line? If your cameras are priced at around $150, and you can distribute 100 of them in an awareness campaign, along with free Flickr pro accounts, wouldn’t that have more potential impact? Including residuals, because places like Flickr and blogs are forever, not just 30 seconds.
Find events that might draw them, online and off, and share your ideas there. But EVERY time you work offline, find ways to tie it back to online. Tags, pages on Upcoming to sign up, Facebook event invites, and anything else that can add an Internet record and potential links and carry-on to whatever you’re doing on the ground.
If a tree falls in the digital forest and there aren’t tags, blogs, and other ways for people to share the news, it DIDN’T happen.
The Events Section
This ties to the real time events I was just talking about, but also other things. Doing is where you can catch the most impact of getting your marketing needs met. So many people are out there doing their own thing, are passionate about what they’re passionate about, and are looking for more and more ways to do, to engage, to take action.
THESE are your gold.
In some ways, these types sum up the other two categories. They are aware of the news. They know what new products might or might not be out there, and/or they know where they choose to shop.
What they want are experiences. What they want is to be empowered to do the things they love better, differently, with new friends, etc.
If I had to pick one of the three categories of Sunday paper readers to go after, I’d spend my time with the people who want to know where the activities are happening. I’d spend time with events coordinators (Disclosure: I work on events as a job and as a hobby, so you can discount this a little, maybe). I’d spend time with people who would be the best users of your products (and don’t think for a moment that I’m discounting B2B. There are people inside corporations, I’m told). I’d spend time figuring out ways to empower and enable that.
If I’m a camera company, I’m in San Francisco with Robert Scoble and Thomas Hawk on Photowalks. I’m in New York with Bre Pettis doing Photogamer. I’m finding the new cool ways cameras can empower other things (like 2D bar code recognition for locative data projects). I’m contributing to online community projects that foster the SPACE, not just my product.
Because that’s the trick of it, too. It’s not about your thing. It’s about the people DOING something, and you’re there to equip and empower. People will get the difference.
Sunday Papers and Social Media
On the other side of this all, if I’m making social media (and I am), I would work with others in my space to collaborate. I would build content networks. And if I’m interested in something that might have appeal to a specific group of people in the news, ads, or events parts of the newspaper, I’d work harder to make my content connect more closely with that space.
Our blogs, our podcasts, our videos and the stuff we’re making can be useful to the people who are similarly passionate about. Further, we can work to shape our content such that our audiences can do even more with it. When we find like-minded resources out there, we should band together, make ourselves go from being pamphlets into columns in a like-minded paper.
Sharing our thoughts in a way that facilitates ease of use and that distributes our ideas out to the people who could do to use them the most is important. If we’re going to help marketers and advertisers understand how to interact in this space, it’s also up to us to make OUR products and effort better, so that we’re all working towards empowering the various sections of this large virtual distributed newspaper we’re creating every day.
It’s what will empower this space even further in coming years.
Is your company part of this ecosystem yet? Are you engaging different parts of the newspaper in different ways? How are you participating in this? Are you a “Sunday paper reader?” What’s your take?
The Social Media 100 is a project by Chris Brogan dedicated to writing 100 useful blog posts in a row about the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests. Swing by [chrisbrogan.com] for more posts in the series, and if you have topic ideas, feel free to share them, as this is a group project, and your opinion matters.
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Photo credit, will hybrid