* Caveat: I offer my advice with a lot of the same challenges you all face with the brands I work with. I work with McDonald’s, Unilever, and Dow Chemical. So please know that I understand my lofty suggestions aren’t always going to work in our professional lives due to the existence of lawyers and 24-hour news.
Here’s the setting…There’s a growing trend… a problem if you will, for brands. People who used to spend 4 hours a day watching television, reading magazines, etc or as some might call it, consuming, are now sitting at their computer and creating things. The internet has changed our ability to make things, and be things we want to be, because we’re no longer restrained by geography, lack of tools, or access.
Call me overly dramatic.This is the rebirth of the renaissance man and woman. We’re not so easily defined anymore. And it’s largely because of our participation in so many different communities.
There’s so much less stopping us today from doing what we want, than decades past.(Next slide)
So hopefully what I’ve conveyed to you so far, is that because of the internet, we’re in a place where people discretionary time for participatory entertainment.
The less obstacles creators have between them and the final product the more likely they are to participate. All things being equal, brands cannot place many restrictions on participants without having to pay an inverse “tax” for keeping people in a restrictive environment.
It’s even harder for a brand to build a community because it’s very presence can turn off possible participants.
That’s not to say there aren’t some great successes out there. Let’s take at just a few notable ones.
Obviously a massive media campaign, and a built-in social media sharing engine helped get this program national recognition, but it’s still fair to assume, that a large driver of participation here was the opportunity to create something good for others. In this case, the Brand Pepsi, which has little to do directly with philanthropy gave people the opportunity to do good. And they did they pay inversely for that lack of connection, buy providing a great deal of money and attention to the participants.
I know that there’s no one in this room that believes in the “build it and they will come” idea…but just in case, let me remind you….building something means nothing if you don’t put the effort into making sure it thrives.I firmly believe that if you want people to participate in something, they have to believe (it doesn’t necessarily have to be true) but they have to believe that you are putting in just as much, if not more, effort than they are individually. Brands often try to create an automated experience. BUT we’re human, and it’s impossible to automate a system which accounts for all the variables that we tend to create as humans.Using the3six5 as an example, our authors know we put in a ton of work. And we really do. We edit, we remind, we coach. If people just thought we were building a blog that was getting tons of traffic for other people’s work, they’d never participate. They’d feel used.
A picture I took on the bus ride home last Wednesday. A guy with a 8 foot tall wooden plank was on the bus. Myself and many others were taking a pictures. It was unusual to say the least and it caught the attention of a lot of people.The point I want to make here is to try and shy away from copying other people’s successful platforms. “Let’s do OUR version of Brand X’s award winning idea, etc” or “Find me a case study where, X type of social media worked for our industry.” I think that many brand representatives get caught in a place between simply replicating other’s success, and remixing….and when lawyers get involved, well it skews more towards replication. Our industry has thrived on creation and recreation, but often we get trapped into trying to duplicate someone else’s success. I think we need to stop and ask ourselves, is it easier to build a community that replicates another thriving ecosystem? Or should we take a risk and build participation within a community that serves a completely new purpose?
Drink your own Kool-aidDoes this pass your own test? How many degrees removed are you from a community you’re trying to build? We’re marketers. We’re rarely the exact “target market” that we’re creating something for. So my advice is, build things for people you love. We all know someone close to us that would be a candidate for the things we create. Ask yourself… Would you be happy and proud to put your creation in front of friends and family?
Community managers often forget that the upper echelon… The ones who are producing the best work, aren’t the ONLY ones who should get attention.There are going to be participants in your communities. Let’s say it’s a crowdsourcing community, that simply can’t deliver the quality you want. The tendency I’ve seen is to ignore those individuals who aren’t delivering the goods…regardless of their fervor for your project. …That can be a critical mistake in creating participating.An apathetic craftsmen looking for his next paycheck may not be as valuable to you compared to a fanatic, because that master artist may not do a very good job at bringing more people into the community. And while quantity doesn’t trump quality. The top fans really do need to be thanks and acknowledged publicly. It’s something that community managers don’t often build into their responsibilities because they’re often focused on producing the finest products without always thinking about the secondary individuals who may bring them (indirectly) a higher quality community.
One of the mistakes brands make when using money, prizes, or even visibility as incentives is that they use an all or nothing approach. It turns a community into a contest. Rather than offering 1 payoff for 1 person, my recommendation is to distribute it and offer smaller rewards on an ongoing basis. To tie back to Pepsi, they do a magnificent job of that.The reality is, if people believe they have a chance to gain something, even if it’s smaller, they’re much more likely to invest time into a community vs. a situation where a person very quickly realizes they don’t have a shot at the one and only prize…so why stick around to contribute when they could just go elsewhere and participate outside of a branded experience.So the key is to find that perfect point of appearing to offer a wide range of incentives, but not offering so many, that they lose their value individually.
Trust is the most important factor.I hate to use Apple in a presentation because it’s so cliché’d, but they’re a dynamite example of building trust through products. They consistently delight this customers, and when a new product is on the horizon, they’ve already got a line of people willing to commit.That kind of trust is often necessary for creating participation online. Having a good track record of creating interesting things, things that make people happy, or help a cause earns you the right to propose a new community and ask people to be participants. If a brand comes out of the blue, having never really put much effort into online communities before, it’s going to be an uphill battle to try to rally participation. People will simply be unsure of your motives and of your promise to deliver an experience worthy of their time investment.So my advice to brands is, if they have a long term goal to build a community and drive participation, they should be planning far ahead and doing small things with other communities and people to earn the trust required to build their own.
Planningness 2010 Presentation
How to Create<br />Participation<br />Len Kendall – Oct. 2010<br />@LenKendall<br />
Breakout: Let’s Create<br />-Create participation around 1 person in your group (find a reason)<br />-Smartphone artwork community (unexplored type of art …not an obvious form like photos or sketching)<br />-A new type of “aficionado” community (cigars, booze, art, CAN’T be used) think different<br />-A Branded (Unique/Ridiculous) Tumblr Submission Blog (think LOLCATS) that is fun and doesn’t get you sued<br />-A branded (but completely unrelated to the brand) “etsy-able” product<br />The Idea<br />How will you drive participation?<br />Why will it fail? Pitfalls<br />Who in your team is legitimately going to research the idea when Planningness is over?<br />
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