Monday, December 04, 2006

Citizen Marketers

One of the first things that struck me when I began reading Citizen Marketers, was the ability that Ben and Jackie (calling them McConnell and Huba just doesn't fit) have to take a concept as misunderstood as Social Media, and scale it down to where it is accessible to all, and to do so without talking down to the reader. In fact, the book does such a good job of giving background on the various forms of social media, that it can double as a general primer on the subject.

But where CM shines is in explaining what exactly Citizen Marketing is, who these people are, and what motivates them. I'll be honest, going into reading this book, I was a bit worried that this would simply be a collection of case studies providing examples of citizen marketing, bookended with an introduction and conclusion chapter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, Ben and Jackie have done exhaustive research into the subject of citizen marketing, and instead of simply rehashing examples such as the CGM buzz behind Snakes on a Plane, Jarvis' Dell Hell, or the liberation of Fiona Apple (quite possibly my favorite story in the book, which I'd never heard of previously), Ben and Jackie talked to all the parties involved, and discovered what they did, why they did it, and who they did it for.

Their conclusion was that they were dealing with, concerned citizens. Citizens whose love of their favorite brand compelled them to take action on its behalf. And thanks to the rise of the internet, and more specifically social media, those concerned citizens not only have the tools necessary to produce their own brand marketing, they have the ability to reach others, and mobilize them to share their cause. One person's blog post lamenting the cancellation of a favorite TV show can blossom into a full-fledged petition drive that saves the series. A bad customer service experience at a fast food restaurant can be recorded and uploaded to YouTube within minutes. Jarvis' post about his dissatisfaction over his Dell erupted into Dell Hell, which eventually forced the Austin-based computer maker to totally re-examine their customer-service, and revamp their policy on reading and responding to bloggers(IOW, creating a policy for reading and responding to bloggers).

But in my opinion, the heart of the book lies in Ben and Jackie's breakdown of Citizen Marketers into four distinct categories, which they have dubbed 'The Four Fs', all with their own motivations for their actions. I'll quote the pair from their Church of the Customer blog on their roles:
1. Filters

The Filters are human wire services. They collect traditional media stories, bloggers’ rants and raves, podcasts, or fan creations about a specific company or brand and then package this information into a daily or near-daily stream of links, story summaries, and observations.

Most Filters maintain a steady objectivity like traditional news wire services, but some Filters cross over into analysis. For the most part, Filters are not prone to fits of pique or confrontation, and they occasionally produce their own journalistic work.

2. Fanatics

The Fanatics are true believers and evangelists. They love to analyze the daily or weekly progress of a brand, product, organization, or person and prescribe courses of action. They are, essentially, volunteer coaches.

The Fanatics praise great work -- which may vary widely from marketing to accessory development -- but they will also critique mistakes or obvious lapses in full view of the world, just like a coach may do as a teaching tool.

3. Facilitators

Facilitators are community creators. Their primary citizen marketer tool is a Web-based bulletin board or community software. Facilitators are like the mayors of online towns, and some online communities exceed the populations of small cities.

4. Firecrackers

Firecrackers are the one-hit wonders of citizen marketers. They can attract considerable attention because they have created a song, animation, video, or novelty that generates a lot of interest but tends to die out quickly as the creators go on with their other work.

Sometimes the proverbial wild hair springs up and a few hours later, two guys with a video camera record a funny rap about McDonald’s McNuggets, post it to a few video-sharing sites, and watch it accumulate 70,000 views. Not all Firecrackers are get-’em-out-fast productions. George Masters’ homemade ad for the iPod was a popular one-hit wonder, but he spent five months creating it.

In conclusion, buy this book. It isn't a marketing book, it's a book about your community of customers. What motivates them, and what inspires them to take action, both on behalf of, and against your brand. A customer is shaken from their apathy toward a brand, and spurned to action either in response to a brand's indifference towards them, or as a result of the brand's reaching out and offering the hand of empowerment to them. Right now your brand likely sits on one side of this fence, and gaining a better understanding of your customers and what gives them the incentive to act, will help you understand how they view you.

And on a final note, this review serves as another example of the benefits of finding and empowering your community to market for you. In this post, I literally begged Ben and Jackie for a copy of this book to review, and mentioned that I'd like a free copy "before I can buy it"(and I did intend on purchasing the book when it became available). I had a copy in my mailbox in a few days, and that prompted me to go ahead and order their first book, Creating Customer Evangelists, from Amazon, and I'll be reviewing it as well in a few weeks. So to those industries (read: music) that still believe that giving away your product simply results in a lost sale, consider that by giving away a copy of Citizen Marketers, Ben and Jackie not only got a sale back, but a review here for each book.

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Tim Jackson said...

Bravo! Well done.

Now I have to go buy the book.

Mack Collier said...

You're a smarter marketer after you put the book down, so it's money well spend. I think Amazon has the hardcover for like $16.50, click on the picture in my post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this know this post is, um, fitting. Um, ya know why?

Do ya?

Well tomorrow you will.

How's that for suspense?

And I'll give you some link love on this tomorrow, too. That wasn't the suspenseful part.

- anonymous

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mack. Good review!

Mack Collier said...

Lewis if you don't already have a copy, you definitely need to shoot over to Daily Fix and reserve your copy. Same for you Tim. It would be a steal at double the $16.50 price.

Anonymous said...

thanks for your kind words on the BC over at my blog and at DF. Your review is so thorough and I really see this as a Mack's list of must-reads.

Just wanted to thank you for all you do.

Mack Collier said...

Thanks CK! Glad the BC is taking off like a rocket!