Responses: 5 minute question

I recently threw out a question to a few of the smartest community marketing minds around (as well as here on the blog). The question was simple, the answers were not.

If you had 5 minutes with an inquisitive marketing manager, what would you want to make sure they learned about working with fans/community?

I’ve collected the answers I’ve gotten back below (with a bit of editing). What about you? What did we miss?Spike Jones

If they do it right – they are in for one of the toughest but rewarding experiences of their professional career. It’s that whole “campaign vs. movement” thing. This isn’t some 3-month campaign that they can abandon and move on. This is literally rolling up your sleeves and digging in to people’s lives. It’s hard freakin’ work. But it’s so very meaningful, too. Be flexible. Not everything is going to go according to plan – and that’s a great thing. Movements are organic. They don’t follow a marketing strategy or fit on a flowchart. They are living, breathing things because they are dealing with living, breathing people. And those people will be your greatest ally – if you listen to them and let them in. To be flexible you have to realize that you aren’t in control and need to relinquish that illusion from the start. The sooner you do, the better.You are a part of the community, too. Not the director. Not the leader. And certainly not the owner. Remember that.Jeremiah Owyang

  • Communities have already formed, it’s up to the company to join
  • They are not in charge, Let go to gain more
  • Learn to listen to the communities before joining
  • Conversations over creating messages
  • There is a big distinction between fans and communities. Fans are a subset of a larger community, that may include detractors as well, and that’s important to know, identify, and engage

Lee LeFever

  1. Your customers are going to talk about you online.  The question you have to ask yourself is: Do you want to be a part of that discussion?  You might be surprised, but your customers want you to speak up, as long as you do it as a person and not a press release.
  2. What has changed in the last 5 years, thanks to blogs and other online resources, is that an individual customer now has the power to have more influence than your whole marketing dept. This is a risk and an opportunity.  By choosing community, you are working to reduce the risk and increase the opportunities that come out of this power shift.
  3. The first question I would ask is about the company – what are you trying to do right now? What are the biggest problems that need solving? Look for opportunities to connect an active community of customers to a company goal.  Do your customers know your goals?
  4. Getting customers to interact is not the ultimate goal – the goal is mobilization. A motivated and rewarded community, properly mobilized, can produce real and measurable results.
  5. Do your homework.  Before diving in, find out what is being said about the company.  Identify the influencers (positive and negative) and try to understand their perspective. Start reading blogs. Send a personal email to the influentials.
  6. Embrace transparency.  Admit imperfection. Accept responsibility. Be real.

John Moore

I would express the importance of having confidence in the products and services their company offers.  Trust is also of significant importance and I?d talk about that as well. Why confidence and trust?  Because if a marketing manager has confidence in  the products/services their company offers to customers, then they’?ll trust customers enough to form communities around those offerings.  Conversely, if this marketing manager lacks confidence in the products their company offers, they?ll most likely seek to control actions of the community. Companies and marketing managers can?t control the actions of fan communities.  By its very nature, fan communities cannot be controlled?onlyencouraged.For those marketing managers who lack confidence in their company’s offerings, my advice is to allocate some marketing spend to make their products/services better.  That way, they will gain confidence and thus be able to fully trust fans to form communities around those improved productsand services.Christopher Carfi

If I had five minutes, I’d use four of those minutes to bring the marketing manager into the room with a handful of people from the community itself, sit them all down, and have each person tell about who they are, what they look for from the community, and what they hope to contribute to it.  I’d take the final minute to reiterate the point that community is not an anthropological experiment, or an “us vs. them,” where the “marketing manager” stands outside of the community and observes it.  Rather, that marketer needs to be a *part* of the community as well.

Asa Dotzler

There are several key areas where community can make a huge impact for an organization like ours. First, they inform the product design, development, and testing to help ensure that Firefox is high quality and relevant to a larger audience. We simply couldn’t design and build Firefox as it is today without the resources, technical and non, that our community bring to the project.  Second, they are an amazingly effective marketing and distribution channel. Word of mouth, especially driven by “extremely local experts” is great for building brand strength at low cost and, in our case, for actually distributing the product.  Finally, they inspire. Their voluntary participation inspires others working on the product to try build something even better and they inspire new users to become passionate users like themselves.  Inspired organizations can accomplish great things. Jake McKee (that’s me, fool!)

The first and most important rule of interacting with community members is a simple one: Make sure that everybody goes home happy. The concept is simple – when creating connection between consumers and there needs to be a balanced maintained. Brands shouldn’t be giving away their time and product for no reason, and community members should be volunteering to help a company for no other reason than “they asked”. Both sides should be getting something fulfilling out of the interaction. How do you know if everybody is going home happy? Simple – on your side, do a gut check. For the community side of things,  just ask. Or pay attention. Like any relationship, paying attention and open communication will give you all the information you need. 


For information about my Community Consulting, Training and Speaker services, or to find out more about Dinner5, my unique community for community builders, contact me today.

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