Thursday, February 17, 2011

Join The Club

Human beings are interesting creatures.  Of course, like snowflakes, none of us is like anyone else.  We're all unique.  But as different as we all may be, there are still some similarities that binds us all together as a species.  For instance, everyone eats, everyone poops (someone wrote a book about that), everyone sleeps and loves and laughs and cries.  These are things that we can all relate to because we all do these things.  But sometimes what binds us together is a group, race, religion, culture, gender.  We may all be unique, but at the same time, we're all looking to belong...to something.

The need to belong to a group, something larger than ourselves, is very real for most of us.  People like to be around others that have similar interests, backgrounds, likes and dislikes.  It's this desire to be with others that have common interests that can have a major impact on your social media efforts.
I want you to help me grow my business!

Think about it.  Regardless of whether you're a small business or a non-profit, you most likely already have a base of customers you deal with regularly.  They are, in essence, part of your club, your gang, your posse, if you want to be a bit more "hip". 

Some businesses have actually raised this mindset to a virtual art form.  We've all heard the term, "Membership has its privileges."  American Express has created a kind of exclusive club that many of us wish to belong to, but not all of us can.  AMEX has made it clear that we want to be part of their club, because members enjoy certain perks that the rest of us don't. 

Like a good nightclub that has a line stretching out the door, being exclusive can go a long way towards creating buzz and grabbing attention.  We all want to know what the big deal is.  What are the perks?  Why does everyone want to go into THAT particular club?  Eventually those questions turn into statements like, "I want to be a member, " or "I just HAVE to get into that club." 

You can use this same kind of marketing strategy to push your social media efforts and create buzz about your organization.  And you don't even have to be exclusive to be successful at it.

The Popular Kids:

Remember High School?  There were all kinds of cliques, ranging from nerds, to goths to jocks to the popular kids.  Some folks were able to mix easily with members of most cliques.  Some simply stayed put in their comfort zone.  But regardless of who you were or what clique you belonged to, you always wanted to hang out with some of the "popular kids".  Being seen with them instantly raised your credibility and stature among the rest of the kids dancing around the proverbial campfire.

The world of marketing and PR isn't much different.  It's why so many organizations latch onto certain celebrities to promote their cause or business.  At least that's how it used to be under the old school system.  Sure, businesses still rely on celebrity endorsements for the bulk of their advertising.  But in the world of social media, celebrities have very little impact.

What DOES have an impact is finding the social media personalities that already have established themselves and have major followings.  In most cases, these Facebook, Twitter and Blog pages have grown because the content is interesting, informative and fun.  In the world of "New Media," these are the new "popular kids" on the block, and you want to be associated with them in some way.

In a lot of ways, it's easy to hitch your wagon to these individuals.  You can simply follow them, or friend them if you're talking about Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.  If it's a blog, subscribe to the blog and then participate in discussions.  Become a regular reader and responder.  It's a bit like trying to pick up on the waitress at the bar.  You don't just go in and ask her out, you have to get to know her, she has to trust you, you have to make a connection before you can do anything with her.

Blogs are kind of like that.  We've discussed this before in this space.  It takes a little time, but getting to know the author of a popular blog can do wonders for your hit rate.

By connecting with these "popular" profiles, you wedge your way into their club.  You now have an opportunity to reach many more individuals with your message and posts.  Be clear, though, about the audience for the particular profiles you friend or follow.  Make sure that you're reaching a group of people that are either interested in your product, service or cause, or MIGHT be interested.  While it's always a good idea to go after groups of people that fall outside of your traditional audience, you still have to make sure that your posts will have an impact, otherwise, you'll still be shouting into the wilderness, despite how many friends or followers your new contact may have.

Let's Start A Club:

Up to now, we've discussed how to join existing groups or "clubs" on social media platforms.  But you can have just as much of an impact, maybe even more, by starting your own club or group.  There are a few ways to do this.  You can actually start a group or club page on Facebook, start a blog for that group or club, set up a Twitter account for said club or group.  This is the most obvious way to establish your group or club, but certainly not the only way, or even the most effective.

When I was in college in Boulder, I used to go to Old Chicago, on Pearl Street quite often.  I also went to a bar called Potters every Saturday night.  With all the bars in Boulder, why did I choose those places over all the rest?  Quite simply, I liked the atmosphere, the clientele and more importantly, I was part of their beer drinking club.  As a card-carrying member, I received discounts on beers at those locations.  The more I went, the more I saves, plus I racked up points that rewarded me with perks like mugs, t-shirts, etc.  Like the saying goes, membership has its privileges.

You could begin a similar kind of program for your customers or donors.  This isn't a new marketing technique.  Discount books or cards have been part of the marketing world for decades.  And as they say, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. 

There's another way to create a club atmosphere around your organization that can be even more successful than either of the above methods; Build a nation.

Nation Building:

We've all heard of the Steeler Nation, the Packer Nation, Arnie's Army.  While these are sports-oriented groups, the simply fact is that everyone who belongs to these groups are fans.  And fans matter.  I'm working with a client now that is trying to increase traffic to their veterinary clinic.  One of the ways they're trying to do this is to increase the number of spays and neuters they do every week.  As part of the campaign, we have created, "NOOTER NATION."  The spelling is a take off of HOOTERS, which is a partner in the effort.  Everyone who gets their pet spayed or neutered becomes part of "NOOTER NATION" and receives discounts on food and drinks at HOOTERS. 

Another client is considering starting "Amy's Army" to recruit volunteers to help trap and release feral cats in Denver.  By starting these various nations and army's, these organizations are calling for individuals who want to be part of something they believe in.  They can rally around a cause and feel part of a group with a name and a hierarchy and a vision.  Plus, once you create your nation or army or club or group, you can begin to market it as a way to help market your product, service or cause. 

People want to feel like they belong to a group or an organization that holds their same beliefs, has their same values.  If you own a restaurant, start the "Hoagie Hangout" or "Carnivore Club".  You own a theater, how about the "Actor's Circle," where regular attendees receive discounts on shows or refreshments.  The purpose of beginning a club based on your business is towfold.  First, you reward customers who use your service or buy your product.  The other purpose is to draw in others who may otherwise not have been interested or even aware of your organization.

In the end, you want people to take advantage of your service or product or donate to your cause.  By establishing a club or group, you give your potential customers something to latch onto, and a club, group or nation is just that something.

So get out there and start a club.  Ask folks to join and make it worth their while.  You'll find that, like the saying goes, "If you build it, they will come."  And that's a good thing.