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Self Replicating Awesomeness: The Marketing of No Marketing panel at SXSW

tara hunt, hugh macleod, david parmet at sxsw

Here's a transcription on community building by a panel of top social media consultants and bloggers. Since it's transcribed, please excuse the grammar and run on sentences.

Chris Heuer, Partner, The Conversation Group

Tara Hunt, Co-Founder, Citizen Agency

Jeremiah Owyang, Forrester

Deborah Schultz, Founder/Chief Catalyst, deborahschultz.com

David Parmet   Owner, Marketing Begins At Home LLC

Hugh MacLeod   Grand Pooh-Bah, gapingvoid.com

"'Conversation' & 'community', yes, yes. Of course. Given. But how, exactly? Do you want people to find out about and play with your awesome Web stuff without being skeevy about it? Serious about including your users in the long-term creation and evolution of your products? Together, we'll divine the best ways to unmarket and create self-replicating awesomeness."

How can you uses social media to build communities around your projects?

Deb Schultz: None of this is about tools or technology, it's about understanding your customers and bringing them into the fold.

Chris Heuer: What makes a community are the interpersonal connections within it. Social media fundamentally changes the way we interact with each other. It takes a shift to think about participation in a different way. We need to change people's mindset from selling to people, to helping people buy. You need to have a genuine spirit of wanting to do good, or people will notice the "fakeness".

Jeremiah Owyang: Conducts research and most recently interviewed 17 companies on best practices for community building and management.

Tara Hunt: "Marketing is the price you pay for creating mediocre products." Tara found that the more she gave away, the more business she got. The more time she donates to the community, the more opportunities open up to her. Read Cory Doctorow's "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom." The book talks about if you do good things for the world, you get more "woofys" (ie., Karma).

Hugh MacLeod

Was unemployed 5 years ago and started drawing cartoons on the back of business cards and posted them to his website. This led to a gig with a small South African winery, Stormhoek, which was selling 50,000 cases per year at the time. Hugh then started talking about Stormhoek and sending free bottles to bloggers, without asking them to blog about it. Hugh then noticed geek dinners happening and offered to send a case of wine to these events. The only condition was to ask people to post pictures to Flickr. The result is that in a year and a half, Stormhoek went from 50k cases per year to 250k cases per year! Hugh and Jason [Korman, of Stormhoek] noticed that the wine was a social object. In fact, it was becoming a social marker, because it took territory and demarcated the conversation.


If you are at a small startup and have some control over your marketing budget, get out of the ivory tower. Get a community manager or evangelist and go meet your customers. Go to conferences and start "weaving". Don't put names on things, like "viral marketing".

Jeremiah mentions that he makes a lot of people at his own company nervous, because he gives out a lot of his knowledge for free.

However, by sharing your knowledge, people will understand that you have knowledge and this becomes your calling card.

Traditional marketing is about throwing the net out wide and hope you catch as many people as possible. What Hugh realized is that you can provide good service to small groups and the word will spread. "Blue Ocean Strategies" is a good book about these principles.

Question and Answer

How to find brand advocates? It's pretty easy to find them by searching. You can also use paid services that will mine the net and find influencers.

What is Kula and what is the latest one?
Kula are shells that people trade in South Sea islands. Islanders would paddle great distances to gift Kula to others. It's not about the shell, it's that people are wearing them and it creates a bond, an obligation, a conversation, an interaction. It's all about people.

It's ok to give away the little things, but what about giving away big stuff?
For example, Audi is giving away dry cleaning, spa treatments and so on. Find related things that people you interact with will value. Also, break things down into smaller segments and go local. Start from the bottom up. Russel Davies said big brands don't have big ideas, they have lots of small ideas. Starbuck's is about the small things. Apple stores also. When you add lots and lots of little things done well, these add up. As a community manager for Hitachi, that sells products worth millions of dollars, Jeremiah set up a wiki that became a valued space for customers and represented a huge cultural shift for the company.

How to market a film? Start a blog and get people from the community to start telling their stories. The brands with the best storytellers win. Empower people and help them tell their stories.

What's the rebuttal to the 1.0 Marketing pushback? There's no such thing as viral marketing. Why not go right to the customers themselves, rather than going for yet another ad buy. Sometimes you shouldn't give your products away, but it's those things around it, the social gestures you make. For example, the Honda dealer has wifi, has bagels, has playground for kids ... so some independent consultants go there to work! It's not just about giving away stuff, it's about creating relationships with the people you're giving stuff to.

What's the takeaway, the soundbite?
Social objects are the future of marketing. Build social capital and find your higher purpose. Passion for people, put passion into product. Technology changes, human behavior doesn't, don't get lost in the shiny bling, don't get lost in the ivory tower, nothing replaces listening. People are people.

What about nonprofits, what is free is the message ... is pitching the message annoying or wrong or unethical? What you're giving is a connection to a higher purpose, a sense of belonging. Cultivate this feeling, rather than sending a message to people. Find how to connect with people. When do you connect with people? Is it just on your own terms. Do you sell tupperware when you invite people to dinner? That's a turn off. If you only talk to them when you need them, you will lose them. It's more about the quality of the connections, one person at a time.

What if these tactics don't work? How long does it take? Traditional execs want immediate results. They care about levers, not people. A lot of it has to do with people not getting it. It's not campaigns, it's programs. Get qualitative results, get the videos of the kids in the playgrounds and tell their stories.

Is this a fad or does it need to be done? Jeremiah believes there is a purpose to marketing. But marketing has become associated with sales, rather than associating the product with the value people get from them. For Deborah, it is a personal mission, not a fad. She considers herself a customer advocate, not a marketer. She loves bringing tools to people and enabling people to do cool stuff with it. It's significant that everybody has a voice today. It boils down to, what's your intention? People will notice fakeness.

Wrap-up: A story without love is not worth telling.

March 10, 2008 in Social Media & Networks | Permalink


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"Customer Advocate" sounds like Marketing/PR needs to act more like Customer Support and Customer Support needs to realize that it's actually Marketing.

Posted by: Ed | Mar 12, 2008 11:47:11 AM

You're right, Ed, customer support becomes the most important part of marketing. This means not only that people within the company help out users, but that users are empowered to help users as well by making available forums and other platforms suited for the purpose. It also means putting in business processes to delegate and track issue resolution.

Congrats on your new job, by the way :)

Posted by: Alex | Mar 12, 2008 3:50:27 PM

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