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November 17, 2006
The 4 F's
We spent months examining all manner of amateur, citizen-created sites that focus on products, brands or companies. Based on that examination, we think there are four ways to classify user-created sites: Filters, Fanatics, Facilitators and Firecrackers. They are the 4 F's of citizen marketing. Here's a bit more about them:
The Filters are human wire services. They collect traditional media stories, bloggers’ rants and raves, podcasts, or fan creations about a specific company or brand and then package this information into a daily or near-daily stream of links, story summaries, and observations.
Most Filters maintain a steady objectivity like traditional news wire services, but some Filters cross over into analysis. For the most part, Filters are not prone to fits of pique or confrontation, and they occasionally produce their own journalistic work.
Some of the Filters include:
- HackingNetflix blog, maintained by Mike Kaltschnee who focuses on movie delivery service Netflix.
- iLounge.com, a fast-growing site dedicated to all things iPod started by Dennis Lloyd.
- Starbucksgossip.com, Jim Romenesko's site that distills news about about "America's favorite drug dealer" and seems to be a regular hangout for Starbucks employees.
- Treonauts.com, dedicated to Palm's Treo smartphone, run by Andrew Carton.
The Fanatics are true believers and evangelists. They love to analyze the daily or weekly progress of a brand, product, organization, or person and prescribe courses of action. They are, essentially, volunteer coaches.
The Fanatics praise great work -- which may vary widely from marketing to accessory development -- but they will also critique mistakes or obvious lapses in full view of the world, just like a coach may do as a teaching tool.
Some of the Fanatics include:
- Dave Muscato, whose volunteer work on behalf of musician Fiona Apple eventually pressured Apple's record company sufficiently enough for it to release her "Extraordinary Machine" album that it had been sitting on for months.
- McChronicles blogs exclusively about McDonald's, critiquing the company's marketing and its stores all in an effort to help make the company, as he says, "awesome."
- The Barqsman blog is a fan site by Arizonan Michael Marx, who dedicates himself trying to keeping the oft-ignored root beer brand alive.
- SlavetoTarget is a citizen marketer site run by an anonymous, self-proclaimed Target addict, who's also not shy to criticize the company for its missteps.
Facilitators are community creators. Their primary citizen marketer tool is a Web-based bulletin board or community software. Facilitators are like the mayors of online towns, and some online communities exceed the populations of small cities.
Some of the Facilitators include:
- TiVoCommunity.com, a community site of 100,000+ members who talk TiVo for existing customers and potential ones, run by David Bott.
- MINI2.com, a community site for owners (and potential owners) of the iconic car, facilitated by Paul Mullett.
Firecrackers are the one-hit wonders of citizen marketers. They can attract considerable attention because they have created a song, animation, video, or novelty that generates a lot of interest but tends to die out quickly as the creators go on with their other work.
Sometimes the proverbial wild hair springs up and a few hours later, two guys with a video camera record a funny rap about McDonald’s McNuggets, post it to a few video-sharing sites, and watch it accumulate 70,000 views. Not all Firecrackers are get-’em-out-fast productions. George Masters’ homemade ad for the iPod was a popular one-hit wonder, but he spent five months creating it.
Some other notable Firecrackers include:
- Bowiechick's video on YouTube demonstrating her webcam software (as of this writing, it's been viewed 335,000 times).
- The "Milk and Cereal video" by two Virginia Tech students that spawned scores of copycat videos from around the world.
And like the gunpowder-based noisemakers found in every American neighborhood for weeks leading up to July 4, citizen-marketer Firecrackers can create a lot of noise and shoot off a finger or two:
- Jeff Jarvis' posts about his "Dell Hell."
- Vincent Ferrari's problems in canceling his AOL service lands him on the "Today" show and plenty of other traditional media outlets, not to mention hundreds, if not thousands of blogs.
There are, of course, plenty of other examples of citizen-created content sites. We have cataloged some of them here. We describe more about the 4 F's and the various sites in "Citizen Marketers." We'll share a few of the stories we learned about some of the citizen marketers over the next few weeks.
Other blogs that reference The 4 F's:
Excellent question! Dont forget "mavens". Mavens educate us about what is admirable. They are like teachers who want to educate others to appreciate something that they understand deeply, and like teachers they gear the lesson according to the student. They open new worlds or disclose new limits.
You are Maven. In Chile, Fernando Flores is Maven, www.fernandoflores.cl
Hey guys, thanks again for the book. I just started reading and so far, so good.
Don't be strangers when you get back to Chicago.
I think you left out the 5th "F," which is a huge category: The Frivolous, bloggers who supply lots of content, some of it original, much of it not--none of it either useful or interesting.
Good thinking done here and, I presume based on the buzz, your book, as well. What category do we marketers fall into?
By the way, like David A., I have a fireplace and am constantly looking for kindling. My newest book comes out in May (Lead With Your Heart). I'll light your fire if you light mine.
Thanks Jota and David. And David, thanks for the awesome mid-read update on your blog!
Shel, we really wanted to resist making value judgments about what was considered valuable vs. frivolous content. It's a bit liek the Paris Hilton Test: She's the most frivolous celebrity ever, yet she commands tons of attention, and therefore popularity. So therefore, my opinion of her being frivolous -- how applicable is it, really?
Lewis, sounds like an interesting book!
The link provided for "Slave to Target" site is no good - should be http://www.slavetotarget.com
Thanks for this nice post. For addition, there is a website contain combination of those 4F. For example, the blog owned by John Chow is a mix between Filter, Fanatics, and Firecrackers. Or you can say, mostly website today are the combination of 4F.
Nice piece of thinking on the types of bloggers. May I suggest that there is another F which links all bloggers, and that is Fellowship. The desire for kinship, bonding and relationship sometimes draws people to the blogosphere.
Very interesting links there - I had not seen some of those. Thanks.
Great piece. So with all the options, where would you recommend small business bloggers to shoot for? Say, a small business that owns a comic store? What about a small business that sells IT services? ...or a web designer who works on behalf of clients?
Oh yes, I came up with a 4 Cs of Marketing before, which was more for traditional marketing. However, I feel that it may still be useful in this day and age. Have a peek guys and please feel free to comment.
Cone -- Thanks for the heads-up. I fixed the bad URL.
AM -- What's John Chow's website?
Walter -- For people who are interested in specific brands, products, companies or people, the Facilitators category seems to have good, if not strong, connotations of fellowship and community. Outside of citizen marketer sites, I totally agree that fellowship is a driving force among bloggers.
Sanjay -- I think the ideal strategy for a small business hoping to inspire a citizen marketer site is to facilitate their own community. One of the companies we explore in-depth in the book is Threadless.com. It's a small company and it has a massive and thriving community.
So true... I'm a Filter, blogging with a Fanatic. I like to think we make a nice team.
thanks for supporting the alphabet meme.