Church of the Customer Blog« Previewing "Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message" | Main | 20 questions toward ethical word of mouth »
October 24, 2006
Previewing "Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message"
Caution: Blatant self-promotion follows... Pleave cover your eyes if allergic.
A dedicated website is in the making, but it's time to set the stage for for our forthcoming book, "Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message."
Jackie and I are very excited about this book for several reasons: (a) Thanks to the participation of a number of companies that shared their data with us, our research into and formulation of the 1% Rule presents a few quantifiable measures behind user-created content; (b) Social media can ideally be viewed through the lens of democracy to understand its strong growth and impact on culture and marketing; (c) The publication date has been moved up from early 2007 to Dec. 1, 2006, based on strong demand.
The thesis of "Citizen Marketers" is that a solitary citizen today with a blog or podcast has a substantially better chance of influencing the public’s perceptions of billion-dollar corporations than ever before. With a voice, a vote and a vocation, tens of millions of Americans are involving themselves in the cultural lives of business. Social media are enabling the fusion of pop culture with traditional marketing, and it’s causing all manner of disruption.
With that in mind, we make a case that the distributed, power-sharing nature of social media is a reflection of the ideals of democracy, where liberty, free speech and freedom of association are its ruling principles. As a result, positioning, message delivery and reputation management are in the hands of the populace, where anyone can be a publisher or broadcaster. For tradition-bound managers, the book’s theme is simple: Control is out of control. People are creating content about products and services whether companies like it or not. "Citizen Marketers" examines and classifies the work of everyday people who build content on behalf of products, brands, companies or people and provide some ideas on working with them. They are hardly average members of society or customer databases, which of course makes them progressive or dangerous, based on your vantage point.
Our hope is that the book becomes a handy guide in understanding and discussing the significant changes caused by social media. Chances are that regular readers of this blog will be familiar with a few of the stories we tell; if you believe in and evangelize the reformation of marketing and making it a participatory process, then you're already part of the congregation. What we hope you’ll take away from the book is a common architecture for understanding the role and influence of the everyday person as citizen marketer. The book is ideal for anyone hoping to convince colleagues, coworkers or clients about the broad and tactical changes social media are having on business, marketing and the culture in general.
As a side note, Todd at 800-CEO-READ is giving away a handful of advance, uncorrected copies of the book for anyone who's interested. (UPDATE: Todd has now run out of copies. ) The hardcover version can also be pre-ordered on Amazon. An audio version be will available via Audible.com and iTunes in December.
Other blogs that reference Previewing "Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message":
» Links for 11/2/06 from SmArts
Church of the Customer's Ben McConnell on the people who inspired Citizen Marketers, Jackie Huba and McConnell's forthcoming book: Control is out of control. People are creating content about products and services whether companies like it or not. Citi... [Read More]
Do you find that citizen marketers are more positive or negative about the products and brands they buy?
In my more than 20 years of "social networking" on CompuServe and the Internet, I've seen a lot of positive comments along with a lot of negative ones.
Wal-Mart's being trashed on a lot of message boards and blogs as part of an organized campaign to unionize the company. But there are those of us who are defending the company as well as criticizing it. Who's winning this citizen marketing game? Unions or Wal-Mart?
Good question, Donald. It's our opinion that dedicated negativity by one person or a group of people directed at a solitary brand, product or company typically falls into the camp of what we call "firecrackers," people who go off after being wronged. They can make a lot of noise and cause a lot of disturbance. Their effects tend to be short-lived.
The more long-term, dedicated citizen marketers are ones who are dedicated to a brand or product. Their hobbyism keeps them going. They're not always positive, though. Honesty is not always milk and cookies.
Walmart is so losing the battle of public opinion because it refuses to act human. Its astroturfing efforts with Edelman were the latest example. If Walmart would just come out with its own blog, let people vent and create a forum for discussion, especially to explain its viewpoints (and talk like real people in the process), it would do much better than its contrived, war room-driven PR.
I seem to have been one of the pioneers in using online forums to put a human face on a company, starting back around 1993. So we were ahead of the game when "yourcompanysucks.com" websites and other backlash anti-marketing efforts began appearing.
Some recent blog news got me thinking about all this again, so I've distilled my wisdom on how companies should communicate with customers into five points - http://www.beginningwithi.com/whatido/communicatewithcustomers.html
To Ben's point, in my corporate experience we found- that those who take the time to speak to or about us are the most passionate customers. They come in two sizes: large negative and large positive. They are exactly the kinds of people we want to turn into brand evangelizers by listening, learning and responding.
I look forward to reading your book.
I pretty much agree that Wal-Mart could be waging a better multi-media campaign, but, as you know, the secret to great PR and a strong brand is a fantastic product and service.
And Wal-Mart has both. That 127 million of us buy there attests to its popularity and success, but Wal-Mart is not a hobby for its customers.
We're not enthusiasts,. We're consumers looking for good products and the best prices. That we occasionaly buy $3.60 wall clocks that go on the blink in less than a day doesn't seem to phase us much.
So I don't see Wal-Mart being the subject of a message board such as that devoted to Apple's Macintosh and iPod, but it certainly is ripe for discussion on boards aimed at its small business competitors, employees and political junkies.
And businesses everywhere should be going to school on everything from Wal-Mart's merchandising, store design, purchasing and logistics to its health care policies. Smart people run the company and do a lot of things right.
At this point, it looks to me that Wal-Mart is winning the image game among its customers, but not among the elite who prefer Costco and Target and really don't know what Wal-Mart has to offer. Until Wal-Mart opened a super store across the street from our office, you could count me more in the latter group. Now, I'm a regular shopper there (as well as at Whole Foods) and, for the most part, a fan as a consumer, if not as an investor.
Donald -- To your point, Walmart didn't become a huge company by being the world's worst company. (Although the news the past few weeks about scaled-back growth to me says the company finally recognizes it must invest more in improving existing stores than just keep building cheap cinderblock behemoths.)
I'd say Walmart has fans, it's just that the company shoots itself in the foot so often on other public-image and social-good issues that the company makes it challenging for fans to say "I love Walmart."
Ben and Jackie,
I can't wait to read the book! I know it's going to help certain large corporations figure out that embracing consumers is a great way to do business!
"Our hope is that the book becomes a handy guide in understanding and discussing the significant changes caused by social media."
Our world is really being shaken once again by the impact of social media. The web is providing a fascinating journey at the moment. As someone who has been fascinated by it since its rise to popularity I nevery stop being amazed at what it is offering. Communication, communication communication. But now we all have a voice.
Just got my copy, starting reading last night and great stuff so far! Thanks again guys!
Chris -- You're dead on. Today, everyone is a publisher. Everyone is a broadcaster. That's also a chapter title :)
Mack -- Glad to hear it!
Ben & Jackie,
Good luck with your new book! I can't wait to get a copy and start evangelizing the masses! I hope you guys get a chance to do some more podcasts. You guys have great radio chemistry and should definitely look into producing your own show.
Have fun on the road.
Congrats guys. You already know I am a true believer - so thanks for educating the other 99% of the world..;)