Meaningful Conversations 1: Tribe, Phalanx, Marketing, and the Internet
Yesterday, on Twitter, someone (and I'm sorry I forget who) linked to a video of Seth Godin talking about tribes.
Then, today Sarah of Slouching Mom selected phalanx (def.: noun, 1. any closely grouped mass of people: a solid phalanx of reporters and photographers; 2. a number of people united for a common purpose) which I thought was a really, really interesting concept to consider within the context of the Internet, specifically as it applies to social media.
It's easy to think of mommybloggers as a phalanx---aren't we united in common purpose? To share and create a community---hopefully one that pays dividends in some form or offers remuneration, more preferably? (Stefania at CityMama eloquently describes her journey from casual blogger to professional blogger and marketer.) Aren't we all trying to do the same thing? Commune with other moms, shares tips and tricks, and make a living for our families?
To be a true phalanx, in my opinion, all the mommybloggers would have to be unified behind a single blogger or project. Our goal would have to be that this person’s or blog’s single goal succeeds.
And we don't all want that. We don't all want the same thing. We want what we want for ourselves, which is, of course, personal success (however you might define that).
However, in order to succeed online, I need for this medium to succeed and be a place that facilitates success, and that is the point on which we converge.
That's why women bloggers---mommybloggers---are truly a tribe (def.: noun, 1. A unit of sociopolitical organization consisting of...groups who share a common...culture and among whom leadership is typically neither formalized nor permanent. . . .3. A group of people sharing an occupation, interest, or habit: a tribe of graduate students.)
Seth Godin says, "I don't want everyone to have a tribe. I only want the people who want the world to change, I only want people who have something to say, to make a change, to make things better...The world is lined up in a way now that instead of having to have power or cash, you can make change and have influence merely by leading people who want to go somewhere."
This point is not lost---or invisible---to the marketing community. They are always after the influencers, and the influencers invariably have a tribe.
What's new is people figuring out how to use these online influencers and tribes as an effective marketing stream.
In the mommyblogging community, we talk (okay, kvetch) about how marketers reach out to us. At the recent Mom 2.0 Summit, there was a lot of talk about treating moms as if we are a single entity, unified by gender and mom status.
What I think we're really talking about is phalanx versus tribe.
Marketers need to understand that we're not a phalanx. We don't all have the same interests or a common, unifying goal---as much as it might appear we do. Instead, what marketers are actually seeing are alliances within tribes.
These "cooperative effort alliances" work with an attitude of reciprocity, "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, and together we can get each other much further than we could on our own."
Consider Cool Mom Picks, which reviews and promotes different products that can rapidly become The Mommy Must-Have. The Parent Bloggers Network also reviews products, but additionally provides space for networking. Most appealing to me is The Motherhood, which offers space to listen to conferences about gardening, pose questions to other mothers for answers and ideas, and more.
The sites run the gamut from straight up marketing to focus on the conversation.
What's important to me is that I know the purpose behind these sites, and it's to provide space and information. Sites such as Cool Mom Picks, while friendly and appealing, don't pretend to be my personal friend.
It reminds me of a time my husband and I, newly married, met another young couple, who invited us to dinner. We'd wanted to meet other married couples, so we were thrilled at the possibility of new Married Friends. We were thrilled, that is, until, polished and wearing our "best but not trying too, too hard" outfits, they opened the door and invited us in to have a glass of wine and...listen to their Amway presentation. Suffice it to say, we didn't stay for dinner and never again spoke to them. It's just not a good way to initiate a relationship.
It's also not a good way to use an existing relationship, as good a product or as well-intentioned as it might be.
Bottom line for me is that I love recommendations from friends. That's probably my number one source of selecting products. I love when friends know information about the products and can answer questions. I don't love friends who consistently try to sell me on something when it's their job.
In other words, I don't like to mix business and pleasure.
Sorry, but it's true.
I don't like heading to friends' blogs only to catch them hawking.
I know when it's happening, even if it's a story about the fun times a couple has baking a cake with lots of bonding and laughs. Like Anne Shirley, I know when a story has been co-opted to sell Rollings Reliable Baking Soda, no matter how allegedly seamlessly it's been integrated into the tale.
And for the record, I also notice the new prominently displayed labels on television shows. I'd rather commercials, if it's all the same to you, PR Firms. I'd rather not watch Debra Messing spend five minutes using the entire line of Oil of Olay products at the beginning of the Starter Wife.
In fact, I am pretty good at tuning out or clicking away from advertising, especially when it intrudes on what I really went to see.
The truth is, I plan my purchases. I do! When I want information about what to get? I go do my own research, usually on the Internet, and that's when I want to see reviews and details.
When I want. When I ask. When I'm ready.
I know that the point of advertising is supposed to be to make me think "Puffs!" when I need to buy tissues, but to tell the truth, it doesn't. I apparently have limited space in my short-term recall and I triage "make lunch for kids" and "dentist tomorrow at 9" as priorities for that space. When I go to the store, I weigh price point against alleged features splashed on the packaging. Sorry Puffs, you usually lose.
But we keep talking about products.
If we think back to Seth talking about people wanting to make the world better, that means this all applies to ideas, too.
Again, this isn't a point lost on or invisible to issue advocates and politicians, who have also entered the social media arena.
But are they using it effectively?
And more importantly, are they using it appropriately?
At the end of the day, I think the best avenue to success is not so much to form a tribe as it is to form a phalanx. It's tooting a horn in my own band, but I think the MOMocrats are one of the best examples of a phalanx on the Internet. This group of women united to not just advance women's voices and concerns in the political arena, but we joined forces under one common goal: get our political party elected into office. It worked, and what’s more, we all became much more active and a bigger part of the overall effort than I think we would have individually.
This is where I drop off the presentation and ask you to join in the conversation.
* Talk to me about what you think of bloggers who become vehicles for marketers---whether it's ideas or products---and whether any can or have seamlessly integrated "for profit" blogging into their main stream of blogging.
* Talk to me about whether it's realistic to believe that integrating marketing into a personal blog can be seamless. Can it be, or is it invariably jarring and offputting, even if elegantly done? We're pretty sophisticated these days and I'm pretty sure we can smell marketing a mile away. What do you think?
* What questions, issues, obstacles, etc. do you deal with when encountering marketing requests for your blog? (By the way, Dawn at kaiseralex came up with a pretty good formula for determining what your blog real estate is worth.)
* How can this be something that provides that shiny dividend for us?
What do you think as a reader and/or a writer, or even more specifically, as a marketer?
P.S. Eventually I'll figure out how to set this up to feed from Twitter, and give everyone "permission" to talk in advance.