It’s exciting to participate in communities that have found their stride on the net.
Lots of start-ups incorporated similar approaches into their business plans back in the .com boom days, but failed to hit the popularity and unbelievable saturation of today’s giants like YouTube, MySpace, and FaceBook. There are also some interesting communities centering on geographic or ethnic audiences such as MiGente.com (Latinos) and BlackPlanet.com (African-Americans).
No serious marketing department can ignore these communities. There are millions of users participating in these “web-communes”. The audience is huge and the potential gain of properly communicating to them is even bigger. By following a few simple rules, some companies have become very popular. Cillit Bang didn’t get upset when their advertisement got “re-mixed”? and posted. Bawls Energy drink had their online store in place, when their beverage was purchased by a gamer who in turn recommended it to the gaming community on his popular blog. The movie Snakes on a Plane was born out of the phenomena we call viral. Not to mention the more recent Old Spice campaigns that nearly established themselves as an internet pop-icon by personally approaching sites like reddit, 4chan, facebook, via creating custom videos on youtube as per popular community request.
Marketing virally requires a huge amount of trust that flows in two directions. The supplier must trust the “audience”. Relinquishing control of the product’s marketing ideology or “IP”, and reputation to the consumer is the basic idea. Trust from the audience is gained by showing respect toward the community’s “code of conduct”. The key word here is respect.
Marketing products to “dumb” audiences, who must be told what they want, is passé and has been for a very long time. Consumers are no longer dumb, they are formidable opponents. The net has opened the doors to unfathomable amounts of information available to anyone who has a connection. This means people are better informed and more confident than the stereotype of a shopper at the supermarket or lone TV viewer accustomed to “push media”. There is power in numbers. Perceptions for or against products are formed by consensus.
TV viewing time is spent surfing the web. TV News and classic reporting is replaced with reading blogs. TV movies and sitcoms are replaced with watching short videos like an elderly English man tell tales about his life experiences on YouTube. At his peak of popularity the English daily “The Guardian” raised complaint that more people would be watching geriatric1927 on YouTube than reading their paper. This is “really-reality-TV” based on openness, passion and honesty. Letting go of a companies marketing ideology, and product reputation is the key component to entering the high stakes game of viral marketing. This is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are enormous and easily attainable if done right.