Lynn Serafinn looks at how modern marketing is now a dialogue with our audience, and how the cyber-community is an integral part of our business success.
Throughout the 20th Century, old-school marketing was primarily a one-way form of communication. Advertisers said whatever they wanted to say in an effort to persuade the public to buy. The only definitive way consumers were able to communicate what they felt about such marketing was through their spending habits; thus, ‘success’ in marketing could really only be measured by sales conversion.
But over the past decade, social media and mobile technologies have transformed the way we communicate. No longer are we the passive recipients of advertising, but interactive participants in the experience of consumerism. This has created a shift in social attitudes towards marketing. We are no longer content for advertisers to tell us what to think; rather, we tell them what we think. More importantly, we tell other consumers what we think about a company’s principles, products and services. For example, recently I needed to buy a new blender. I scoured the online product reviews of at least 10 different products before I made my decision.
But while this in itself has transformed the world of modern marketing, it signals the emergence of something even more profound. Because technology has enabled us to speak with one another at a mass level, we find ourselves doing what people have always done since the beginning of time – forming communities.
The Potential of Community in Marketing
Human beings are social creatures. Our survival has always depended upon our forming communities based on blood or physical proximity. Today, we have adopted this natural inclination to create cyber-communities. What is unique about these cyber-communities is that we define them based upon common values and interests instead of geography. These days, many people refer to such value-defined cyber-communities as ‘tribes’.
Tribes open up an entirely new world to us. No longer do we have to feel like ‘the only odd-ball in the village’ but we can find hundreds – if not thousands – of other people who share our values and vision for the world.
Tribes are fundamental to the new paradigm of marketing in the 21st Century. Old-school Internet marketing teaches us to create ‘leads generators’ and ‘free offers’ so we can get people onto our mailing list and sell to them. But the new paradigm marketer does not seek to ‘convert’ customers via the ‘Deadly Sin of Persuasion’, but rather to attract them via the ‘Graces’ of Connection, Inspiration and Invitation. While we might use free offers and mailing lists as vehicles to connect us with the public, the means must always justify the ends.
By openly expressing the values upon which our company stands, we connect with our audience, inspire them through our example, and invite them into our space. The simple act of inviting people into our space implies a duty of care. For example, if people join our mailing list on the strength of our values, and then we suddenly shift gears and start using persuasive sales strategies to sell things to them, we fail in that duty. But we are also missing the opportunity to harness the formidable power of our community. Apart from being our most reliable customers, when a community becomes aligned to our values and integrity:
- They naturally attract others into the ‘tribe’, without our having to work so hard at it
- They become the most vocal spokespeople for our brand
- They become shapers of social attitudes
- They can become a powerful force for positive social change
Tribes, and tribes within tribes
Defining your specific tribe can sometimes prove challenging unless you understand how tribes can overlap. To show you what I mean, take a moment right now to grab a pen and paper and make a list of the top-level values and/or professional interests which underpin your business. For example, in no particular order, my list would include:
- Marketing strategies (in general)
- Ethical marketing
- Restoring balance to the economy
- Restoring environmental balance
- Feeling deeply connected to Mother Earth
- Supporting, training and empowering independent entrepreneurs
- Using technology to create a new paradigm for business and marketing
- Social responsibility
- Feeling connected to Self
- Teaching and inspiring through example
- The ‘dharma’ of business (the business owner as servant to society)
- Working to create a positive legacy for future generations
- Fostering wellbeing, friendship and goodwill; doing no harm
- The 7 Graces (Connection, Inspiration, Invitation, Directness, Transparency, Abundance, Collaboration)
Taken as a whole, this list gives a pretty good picture of who I am at a professional level. While all of these elements feel like a natural fit within myself, they might not feel so congruent to others looking from the outside. For example, people who are interested in ‘restoring environmental balance’ may or may not be interested in ‘ethical marketing’. I learned this when we were planning the 7 Graces Global Conference in 2012. I had imagined that many people from environmental groups (such as the Transition Network, of which I was a member) would have been interested in the subject of the conference, but I was wrong. Very few environmentalists attended the conference. The reason (I assume) is because most of them were not business owners (in fact, many of them saw business as ‘the problem’ rather than the source of a ‘solution’). Similarly, these same environmentalists might be more interested in activism and politics, while those who are interested in ‘feeling deeply connected to Mother Earth’ might be disinterested in politics, but more interested in the spiritual experience of feeling connected to our planet.
While you might think of each of these disparate entities as a ‘tribe within a tribe’, there is indeed a point at which these sub-tribes converge, and where a small but powerful ‘core tribe’ can be identified:
This ‘core tribe’ (marked in bright yellow in the image above) is your marketing ‘sweet spot’. It is within this sweet spot that social entrepreneurs should start to build their communities.
Unfortunately, many a well-intentioned social visionary has imagined that the true measure of their success will be in their ability to ‘convert the non-believer’. Hence, they will spend a great deal of time and energy during their start-up phase trying to market to those who fall outside their ‘sweet spot’. While this might seem like a noble idea, in practical reality the results are seldom fruitful, and the experience can often leave a social entrepreneur feeling discouraged (if not financially broke).
It’s important to remember that people who lie on the periphery of your ‘bubble map’ are almost always going to be ‘late adopters’ (or non-adopters) of your message. ‘Late adopters’ are unlikely to come into your tribe until they feel the magnetic pull from a strong, established core. So, if you want to build a vibrant, aligned community for your social cause or ethical business, take a look at your own ‘overlapping bubbles’ and identify your most readily receptive audience, rather than the one you believe ‘should’ hear your message. Then, cultivate that core community with love and attention, as they will be the foundation of your tribe as your enterprise grows.
Tapping Into Our Cyber-Communities
Some of you might be reading this and thinking, ‘I don’t have any community for my business.’ Your cyber-communities may not be ‘explicit’. I guarantee that, if you use social media, your cyber-community is probably bigger than you realise. If you’re a new or smaller company (or a one-person operation), you don’t even have to be the administrator of an ‘official’ community to start building a tribe around your brand. Here are some examples of how you can start to find and build your tribe:
- TWITTER: If you’re on Twitter, log into your account and have a look at the lists on which you appear. Twitter lists are often a great indication of where others place you in terms of common interests and/or values. Then, connect with people on these lists by following them (hopefully they’ll follow you back) and chatting with them. TIP: If you don’t appear on lists that seem relevant, it probably means that you are not very active OR that your Tweets fail to communicate your primary message.
- FACEBOOK and LINKEDIN GROUPS: Facebook and LinkedIn groups can be little cyber-tribes IF they are founded upon a common value set. For example, people who join our Facebook group ‘7 Graces Global Garden’ are business owners who are committed to ethical marketing. While starting your own business page or community on Facebook is certainly important, it’s also valuable to be a member of other communities as it will help you find people who share your values and vision. Another way of tapping into your cyber-community is to look for people with whom you have a lot of ‘mutual friends’ in common.
- MEET-UP: Setting up a Meet-Up group is a great way to call together a tribe. They can, however, take a lot of work. Start by joining Meet-Ups that share the common values of your tribe and build from there.
- MLMs: Some of you might belong to multi-level marketing platforms. While MLMs often have a ‘bad rap’, they can also be ideal vehicles for building a value-based tribe. It’s really all in how you manage it.
- FORUMS: Online forums can also be great sources for finding and communicating with people in your ‘tribe’, even if you are not the administrator of the forum. Get involved and start connecting.
- YOUR BLOG: Build your tribe right on your blog by encouraging conversation, comments and sharing.
Marketers can no longer base their strategies upon one-way communication systems. Today’s marketing is a dialogue between our business and our audience, and community is the vehicle with which we can sustain and cultivate that dialogue. This emphasis upon dialogue shifts the focus of marketing, as we become less concerned with sales conversion than we are deepening our connection with our audience. And as that connection deepens, we trust that sales will take care of themselves. All we really need to do is ensure our audience knows what we have to offer. And while, after decades of aggressive marketing practice, this might seem like a simplistic vision to some, I believe it is the future. At the very least, it’s the future I’m working towards.
What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please do share your comments before you leave the site today.
21st January 2014
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Come join our 7 Graces group on Facebook, and join us at our monthly meetings. They’re free to attend and we have them both in person and online, so you can participate from anywhere in the world. This is NOT a “business group” but an active community where people actually know and support each other.
Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)