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Citizen Marketers: Are your fansites friends or foes?

How exciting! Your product has a new site that’s come online. That’s good, right? Imagine this: you open your inbox and hundreds of messages spill in about this new site about your latest, greatest product. Your Web site hits are spiking, Your Google Alert notices are popping in, and the CIO calls to ask when you put up that new domain and did you put the request through the technical standards board? The fansite has technical specs, results of a stress test on the product, a glowing review, some complaints and responses in the fansite forums, and speculation about upcoming versions. When that happens–not if, but when–will you know what happened? Will it be the culmination of your hard-fought efforts in social marketing, or will it blindside you? Are you cultivating this kind of attention, or are you implicitly hanging a “No fanboys” sign on your products?

If you’d rather find yourself pleasantly basking in the glory of your newfound friend’s reflected glory, I suggest you take a look at Citizen Marketers by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba–I read it recently, and found it a good read. The authors range over a variety of social marketing examples to highlight and explain the value and promise of citizen marketing. Many of the examples will be familiar to a veteran e-marketer, but even so the extra detail and insight the authors provide is useful. For someone new to e-marketing, the overview of recent social marketing activities would be essential.
If you are looking for a book that will convince you that you need to attend to your customers and that social marketing is a noteworthy trend, then look elsewhere. The authors take that as a given and instead look to provide examples to help marketers take it to the next level–to step in, assess their market by way of comparison to the provided examples, and to step up to respond.
I received Citizen Marketers at a seminar on digital centered marketing and assumed an unspoken endorsement by the seminar speakers thereby. Citizen Marketers starts out by describing the unique kinds of people who become raving fans for a product or service; it moves then to explain how the technology available to these people has broadened their prospective influence to ever-increasing numbers of people. They categorize citizen marketers into four types: filters, fanatics, facilitators, and firecrackers and provide examples of each.
The authors go in-depth on a few social marketing case studies: the snakes-on-a-plane marketing, the Fiona Apple freedom campaign, and the slavetotarget über-fan are included. In some ways, it is almost a pop anthropology book. There is little solid info on these social marketing phenomenons elsewhere, so it is very valuable that the authors have documented these events. I bet most marketers struggling to introduce social marketing as an “acceptable” marketing tool will be able to find relevant examples for senior management in this book.
I would have liked a bit more analysis of the author’s concluding positions: the authors posit that 1) it is time to democratize corporate communications and 2) there is a fifth “P” to add to the famous “Four P’s of Marketing”–Participation. The points are well made and there is much here to go on for we practical marketers. Read the examples and see if you have any Citizen Marketers that fit into those four categories. And if you do, what are you going to do about it?
A book excerpt is available from Brandweek: “Book Excerpt: Giving Up Control and Other Scary Lessons”

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