The Stairway to Heaven… Communities

6 10 2007

“There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
And when she gets there she knows if the stores are closed
With a word she can get what she came for”

Zeppelin, I love the song, but you couldn’t be further from the truth.

In today’s overcrowded advertising marketplace everyone is clamoring to develop communities around their brands. Communities are the brand managers nirvana. You have your own personal cult that defends your honor and can’t wait to ‘save’ another soul from your oh so inferior competitor. People get more heated over debating the finer points of PCs vs. Macs, than politics.

I’m totally sold, creating, empowering, and extending communities is the new frontier of marketing.

However, much like the damsel in the song, marketers believe that they can simply buy a stairway to heaven. Sorry guys, but communities aren’t for sale, they need to be nurtured and once you get to heaven you can’t get the shops wallets to open with a word either.

For you new media intelligentsia folks this is nothing new. But, there is some truth to Zeppelin’s ballad: The road to heaven is a stairway.

When creating a community around your brand you need to tier the level of involvement.

Many times communities are too focused on the die-hards or too open to appeal to the hardcore. Now a great community appeals to the entire spectrum of people and also transforms the dabblers into die-hards.

For example, with the Ad-Vocate community we built in a tiered system of involvement and multiple opportunities to get involved. You all start at the base line as readers, Tier 1. From this starting point some of you might dive in head first and join our social network, mentor a student, post book reviews, upload your OPML file, maybe even write a post for us. It would be great if you all did this, but at least at the beginning only a very small percentage of readers will commit to that level. However, there are people that will just post comments, use our network to find a summer intern, or answer some questions posted by students. Some people may not even continue reading these posts and exclusively reside on the forums. It is essentially a customizable experience, and the more you get involved with the community the more utility you get back in return – At least we hope so. Thus, we want to transform you from mere readers to involved members of the Ad-Vocate community.

This concept works. Low involvement Harley fans can buy a piece of apparel and feel like a part of something bigger and die-hards can go to Milwaukee and ride with the people that built their bike. Applites can put a sticker on their pick-up truck or create shines to Jobs.

Create lots of touch points to interact with the brand and build in a tiered involvement system.

After that you still need to build a platform for them to connect, empower the network, and amplify their voice. But, that’s the easy part… right?

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