I heard plans from a management company to start a joint venture with a publicity firm that will “run” the online presences of their clients. They were going to be “community managers”. It’s going to fail, horribly. Why? Because community organizing doesn’t scale. It can’t be faked.
But say for a minute that you were a manager that this whole internet thing just happened to, what would you do?
You’d probably set up a Myspace profile, a Facebook fan page and grab some domain like Falloutboyrocks.com. You’d make them all exactly the same, pay a designer way more than necessary and fill it with crappy flash animation. Then these people would come pitch their company to you and you’d said yes because you have no sense of brand or integrity. Hey, you’ve been hearing the word “widget” a lot so you’d score on of those too. Lastly, you’d totally ignore all Social side of social networking by keeping the artist away from their own tools and leave 100% of all comments, emails and remixes totally unanswered. It would all be worth about nothing.
So, fortunately, you’re not one of those people and you should pretty much do the opposite of that. Don’t set up a blog and pretend that you have 5,000 readers who hang on your every word. Don’t make a twitter account that you use solely to spam people with. Work in the communities that you care about. If the email you receive is a function of how much you send, then you should probably start sending some unsolicited emails. You should skip Linkedin entirely because nobody gives a shit.
When Alinsky wrote about social change, he said it required a community organizer who knew the terrain better than a good general. He didn’t say to hire a corporate shill to come in and do it for you. He said it needed someone passionately knew the intricacies of the cause, someone to knew enough about weakness and strength to use jujitsu against more powerful organizations.
The reason community organizing is hard to scale is that a publicist is never as passionate about you as you are. Their incentives are all aligned to the low-hanging fruit. That leaves the task up to you. I’m the perfect organizer for my cause (me). Unless you’re a trainwreck, it’s the same for you. In the end, creating a new media presence is about doing the stuff that you like, not what you’re supposed to like.
I think you hit the nail on the head. People aren’t so dumb that they won’t recognize when your “fan interaction” is BS. The only way you can get a way with it is if you already have a huge fanbase that worships you. Even then it would probably be better to let your more devoted fans handle it themselves, they’ll do a better job anyway.
The way I see it, parts of a project should only be contracted out if there is a technical aspect that you just can’t do yourself. Passing the buck just because something is a lot of work can only set you up for failure.
People like you give me faith in online marketing.
I really wish that Joey Fatone search was a joke.
Thank you for so clearly delineating the problems of so many marketing campaigns. Nothing ever makes me feel more patronized than advertisements which are supposedly viral only because a marketing exec deemed them so, not because they have a spark of creativity or a touch of brilliance about them.
I know that you have worn many hats in the course of your career in New Media, but I hope you are this blunt, or more so, to any clients you might have.
When companies only see potent technology being improperly used, I assume that many execs consider the entire spectrum to be less than viable… if such trends continue, do you think it will disrupt future pursuits of ‘better’ Web 2.0 applications? Obviously telemarketing did not bring down the telephone industry, but the nature of companies such as Twitter and search engine optimization firms seem to be more transient anyways.
So when do you think that we’ll see the advent of an online PR firm that does give a shit?
Or has that ship sailed?
This is one of the best practical-advice posts I’ve read here.
Out of curiosity, does Alinsky’s social and political agenda resonate with you at all, or did you primarily read his books for their practical strategic value?
Some it yeah. I liked his idea of using stock proxies to exert power over institutions you’re a part of. Why shouldn’t students have a say in the investments their universities make with the tuition that they pay. Some of his other stuff is a little ridiculous though.