Before the Social Media Marketing Settlers Arrived…

I am a marketer that engages in social media and blogging professionally. I figure the occasion of Social Media Week in San Francisco is as good a time as any to launch my own personal blog.

Let me start off with a rant that you might hear from your grandfather who had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways:

Back in the old days, before blogs were called blogs, before the term Web 2.0 had been coined, and back when social networking seemed useful only for illegally downloading copyrighted music, we called the precursor to social media “community building” or “community marketing”.

What bugs me about the social media buzz today is that we marketers are approaching social media in a self-centered, narcissistic manner. We have lost a sense of duty to the community that exists around our companies.

Many social media people seem more interested with “personal branding,” and measuring “retweets”, “mentions”, “likes”, and “click-throughs”. We think we can rate our fame like a credit score in Kred or Klout. We treat our engagement with others as a marketing campaign, or as an ambient temperature rating of “sentiment”. What’s been lost is the realization that these relationships are an asset. The whole of these relationships is the community of customers, practitioners, partners, and analysts that coalesces around our companies.

I realize this is due in part because marketers need to demonstrate return on investment for the time and money they spend. Awareness and leads generated are the basic currencies in which marketers are measured, so it’s reasonable we would try to apply this to our social media activities.

When when we approach social media as an act of generosity, fostering and investing in the community around our companies, we can realize additional benefits such as:

  • Creating independent advocates
  • Inspiring customers to give testimonials
  • Building credibility for your company with prospects who see real world problems and resolutions worked out in public view
  • Customers realizing higher value from your products and service by finding related expertise they may need
  • Your overall customer experience is improved as your customers network with other people with backgrounds
  • Goodwill towards your company increases
  • You maintain mind share and an ongoing personal relationship with members of your community

The tools and techniques that are available today in social media make fostering your community easier than ever. In the olden days, you needed to build extensive website functionality to create an online experience for a community. Now you can now simply create a Facebook page or group. In the first online community I helped build in 2002, JDOCentral, we were limited to using static message forums and an email list server for communicating between members. Today, you can leverage popular social networking platforms and Internet chat functions to help community members engage with each other.

If you agree with my view that fostering the communities of people that work with our businesses should be a primary goal of our social media strategies, then this helps direct the kinds of engagement we should be doing. These include:

1) Listening more than speaking

2) Helping your community members find and engage with each other

3) Offering free, curated information and services

4) Making it easy for community members to create and contribute to the community

5) Recognizing those community members who are your most significant contributors.

If you take the altruistic view of helping your community members get what they need out of their community, your return on investment will be higher, ongoing, and more rewarding on both a business and a personal level.

My goal with this blog is help marketers and business leaders understand how to work with the community around their company, particularly those highly engaged members who tend to become important contributors, advocates, and sources of referrals for your company.


  1. Hello Greg,

    Great blog post which I got referred to over Twitter, just to give you the route of engagement.

    I fully agree with you on many of your points and believe it has many similarities with the tribal leadship theory David Logan have conjured up. You can find details on this here

    Creating communities around common values and rather that focus on the personal gain from engaging with everyone is the right way to act with social media and in many other parts of life for that matter.

    However, I believe it can be difficult and dangerous on occasion to reward individuals in the community as if it’s done in the wrong way you might end up in a competitive environment which in many ways have negative effects.

    Good post Greg!

  2. Reblogged this on The Geek Marketing Blog and commented:

    My first blog on this site, and one that still characterizes my approach to marketing – nurturing and building the community around your company or cause.


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