Do you think that people who play Second Life, World of Warcraft, Xbox Live, MMOGs, and MMORPGs are freaks? Do you consider message boards, forums, virtual realities, and virtual communities to be a waste of time, populated by losers?
If so, then you need to leave online advocacy, new media marketing, online brand promotion, online word of mouth marketing, online outreach, blogger relations, and brand ambassadorship to someone who has lived, loved, and connected to people in real ways online. And continues to do so. Gerris respects online community; Gerris respects the online life.
There is a general misunderstanding that online virtual communities are escapist. Many of our clients believe that Second Life (SL), World of Warcraft (WoW), and even Role Playing Games (RPGs) are places wherein geeks, freaks, losers, and loners go to escape their desperate, pathetic, lives. On the contrary!
So-called virtual communities are entirely real and populated with real people with real hopes and real passions. The connections, tribes, relationships, and families that people make online are long-term, real, and intense.
In much the same way that the smart kid may not find people who understand (or even like) him in high school, only to find people just like him — who really “get him” — upon arriving at college; the members of virtual online communities often look for and find like-minded people online.
Online, you can find a large population of like-minded birds-of-a-feather no matter how niche your interest, no matter how counter-culture your fetish.
The Internet can be a safe place for people to explore themselves. The Internet can allow access to people who are shy, easily intimidated, overwhelmed, or are just “trying out” different personalities, experiences, relationships, and roles before committing.
The Internet allows its denizens to “try before you buy.”
That said, they are real people. Their connections online are real. Their roles — even fantastic or bizarre — are true and impenetrable and must be respected.
People are going online to discover people who are exactly like them, called birds of a feather, rather than merely suffering those friends and family who may no longer be a lifestyle choice but a life obligation. People are not escaping, they’re exploring, they’re mapping, and they’re defining. Most of them end up truly blooming in this online world.
Do not engage online if you are unable to respect the full import and depth of culture, experience, and relationship that already exists — and is forever becoming deeper and more formalized.
If you do not learn to love, respect, appreciate virtual online communities as real homes to real people, as real as the village square, the parish hall, the Paris Tabac, or the alumni group then you’re underestimating the passion, loyalty, and deep personal relationship found there.
This lack of understanding and appreciation will almost always result in a tragic faux pas the likes of which may result in brand suicide, the likes of which can be easily avoided if you had just understood that the operative word of Virtual Online Community is community. And community, in this case, is synonymous with family.
As long as you dehumanize your followers, friends, membership, subscribers, fans, and Likers, you’ll never thrive in the social media space.
Every single one of those numbers — outside the bots — posses souls, opt-in, and are making conscious choices, conscious decisions. If you don’t cherish them, you’re bound to #fail.
Go get ’em, Tiger!