I’ve been thinking about this since I received an email from a colleague of mine – we met when I worked in marketing at MuchMusic (he was a rep for one of the labels) and ran into each other, a mere (11? 12?) years later at the Profectio Power Breakfast I spoke at on January 31st (which was sold out, incidentally. We should really do another one of those). It was really nice to see him again, and so interesting that we’re both working in very much the same field.
But I digress, the question (inquiry, really), which I will quote below, came in response to our announcement about Phase I of the Yamaha Motor social media strategy, launched March 1st.
It looks like there are lots of Yamaha owners who have opinions, ideas and thoughts. Brand loyalty might be strengthened even further if Yamaha could foster exchange of user experiences through their portal.
Which raises a very good point, one that Charlene Li and I discussed in a recent Social Media Today podcast – the fact that blogs are not exactly the most interactive platform on the planet – they’re very linear, they’re mediocre at fostering discussion between participants, and don’t generally allow conversations to be threaded (though I understand there are some platforms that offer this functionality), whereas the notion of the “community suite” – many different types of web-based social functionality – is probably the way of the future when it comes to business use of social media. As soon as business understands what social media is.
So, would Yamaha have gotten more engagement bang for their buck if we’d built a more interactive suite of tools and platforms, rather than a blog? In this case, I’d have to say no – and I’m going to quote something Jeremiah Owyang said in a Marketing Voices podcast in January as part of my explanation why:
You don’t build communities – you join them.
In the case of Yamaha, there is an incredibly active community out there already, embodied in the form of Totally Yamaha (over 7000 registered users on their forum). For us to try and recreate the success of this and other existing grassroots forums would have been madness, both because of the Herculean nature of the task and the bad feelings within the community such a move would have engendered. So, rather than try and build a community where one already existed – we joined it, adding our own unique and valuable perspective, and something not available anywhere else – the ability to go right to the source and hear Yamaha’s take on almost anything.
Of course, as with all rules there are exceptions: you can build the framework for a community that does not yet exist if you’re trying to introduce people to something that’s completely new, and/or want to connect with lots of disparate individuals who belong to unconnected communities of interest. But you must remember that you can’t build the participation or the engagement, all you can do is create the ideal conditions (almost like a social media petri dish) for this behaviour to take place, and one of the most important ingredients is content – for if it is boring, they will not come.
Hat tip to Nigel for providing the inspiration for this post!