Why you should own your own marketing home
By Ted Wright October 10, 2019
Digital business consultant Christopher S. Penn recently published a free research paper emphasizing that the most meaningful online engagement and conversations are happening in private groups like Slack, Facebook Groups, and even the gamer platform Discord.
This is not necessarily new insight. We’ve all known that in the long term, it’s not wise to build our platforms on rented land. There are so many benefits to building your own community.
But it reminded me of a powerful lesson I learned a few years ago involving one of my clients.
Building on rented land
In the beginning, Silicon Valley titans created the social platforms we know today, and then first bands, and then brands, went to these platforms to reach out to all of their fans.
Essentially, they had built their fan clubhouse on this land. That land could be called Facebook or Instagram or whatever. It seemed safe. It seemed simple. And for gosh sakes it was free.
Then one of my clients, the lead performer in a very successful band, got a notification from Facebook saying, “The rules have changed. You’re going to have to pay us one way or another to have access to your fanbase.”
Now, he had worked tirelessly to build this fan platform and he was being told that he had to pay Facebook to access his own fans. Sounds crazy, but we’ve all experienced this sharp decline in organic reach.
When you run the numbers, it turns out that the cost to reach your audience on a platform like Facebook is probably more than building something yourself and hosting your fans there.
In fact, many bands have done this now (here is an example from The National) and it is really the only way to reliably reach the people who love you the most.
Another consideration — what happens when your social media platform gets busted for selling everybody’s personal information? And the guy or girl who owns the thing gets dragged in front of Congress, and all of a sudden, your usage rate there goes down by half. All hypothetical of course! But it could happen.
Beyond the bands
I’m seeing this sort of thing happen beyond the world of entertainment. A similar scenario affected a friend of mine in the surf wear business. She had built up a huge following in the social channels, only to see her access to her fans decline without an advertising boost. She’s now looking into building her own community.
Another example is Rennlist. This is an incredible online community for Porsche enthusiasts.
This is the place to go if you have a question like, “I have a 1963, whatever the whatever, and it’s making this whiney sound that goes whee whee whee.” And somebody answers, it’s probably the wheel bearings and this is how you fix it yourself. Very powerful, dedicated community built by one individual.
Word of Mouth and community
How does this impact the world of Word of Mouth Marketing?
I think there are three things to consider.
First, where is influence happening? Sure, it is happening out in the world and online, but it is also happening behind paywalls on channels like Slack. I think a business should consider opportunities to find and nurture influencers in their own communities and perhaps even by joining the communities of others.
Second, a community has to be cool. It has to be great. It has to be unmissable. It has to be authentic, interesting, and relevant like the stories you tell.
Third, the most important thing in Word of Mouth Marketing is to set the story free. That may not happen in a private community! So you have to encourage people to share outside the community. Give them the stories, the tools, they need to take your story to their larger network.
Does building and nurturing your own community take work? You bet it does. Does it take time and money? Absolutely. But in the end, it may cost less and yield better results than building your community on rented land.
Ted Wright is the founder of Fizz, the world’s leading word of mouth marketing (WOMM) agency. Ted is also an acclaimed WOMM keynote speaker and the author of Fizz: Harness the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing to Drive Brand Growth.
Illustration courtesy Unsplash.com