The great promise of social media marketing is the free viral sales force.  Magically, if one person can be made to love your product, they will tell all their friends who go off and tell all their friends.  Some PR companies even go so far as to promise to deliver the “viral sales” force.  What actually happens is quite a bit more complex.

Social Media Immunity to viruses

I recently met a very tech savvy person at a social media convention who had recently returned from overseas with her Acer notebook computer.  She proceeded to give me a detailed analysis of important features such as size, weight, battery life, connectivity, durability, replacement parts, customer support etc.   I was about to buy an HP until I heard about this hot new Acer.  As I listened intently, I realized which features were important to me and which ones were not.  With all this new information, I bought a Dell.

So how did someone touting an Acer actually convert me from HP to Dell?  Frankly, that’s not relevant, what is relevant is that Toshiba was not part of the above conversations – they were attacked by the virus.

Developing a vaccine:

Dell, Acer, and HP could have each dropped 1,000 dollars into a pool of money.  Those 3,000 dollars could have been used to sponsor a community of bloggers to write about the systems, methods, techniques, and products used by their community, just like they would do anyway.

The Next Marketing Paradigm:

Brands will commit funds to people who share active conversations in the areas that truly interest them.  Bloggers will be rewarded for bringing together the communities around natural affinities such as boating, gardening, woodworking, sports, or music, etc.  The names of the sponsors and the funding amounts will be public information, of course, but the funding will be disassociated from an actual purchase.

Just a new twist on an old marketing principle:

McDonalds spends a great deal of money figuring out the best street corner to put a franchise.  At first the franchise turns out 500 meals a day.  Then comes Burger King and together the street corner now produces 1500 meals per day. Next, DQ moves in and the intersection now produces 3000 meals per day.  Without competition a franchise may serve 500 meals.  With competition, each “competitor” serves 1000 meals per day.  The street corner has become a “destination” of choice; literally and figuratively.

Knowledge Malls:

The difference is that the Mall concept is “arithmetic” scaling with upper limits, while the social media mall is multi-exponential.

1. When diverse groups of people get together, they share information, exchange knowledge and innovate, innovate, innovate.  Innovation creates wealth exponentially.  Wealth creates customers exponentially. Every conversation is an event and every event presents multiple opportunities to carry a message far and wide, exponentially.

2. Tangential innovation are the opportunities that are enabled by the primary innovation – often called “Apps”

•    Bloggers help define the community allowing for superior targeting App.
•    Even if a brand does not “win” the sale, they will gain valuable business intelligence App.
•    The brand wins a first mover advantage on the next product development cycle App.
•    Brands win trust because they are supporting a community App.
•    Brands win loyalty – like insurance – if something goes wrong, they are readily forgiven App.

3. The cost of absence App. The worst brand message is to find one’s brand locked out of the game, maybe Toshiba will find this post on Twitter.