Making Sense of Social Media – Part Three

“What’s the buzz tell me what’s a-happening.” Apostles, Jesus Christ Superstar Soundtrack

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar has always been a personal favorite of mine.  I can remember when I bought the album in 1970.  It is not surprising then that the lyrics were running through my mind as I reflected on the learnings from the book Buzzmarketing authored by Mark Hughes.

This is the third book I have selected to share some of the historical thinking that will help you ensure your social marketing program delivers a positive return on investment.  Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and President of Truemajority.org said this about the book – “There’s fake corporate marketing and there’s real marketing.  This is the real stuff for real people.”  How cool is that endorsement?

In the book, Mark talks about six secrets to successfully getting people to talk about your stuff.  Here is my interpretation of how to reapply them to create buzz about your community.

SECRET 1 – Push The Six Buttons of Buzz

People love to be the center of attention.  People love to have something fun to share with friends that will brighten their day.  In order to tap into people’s natural desire to be seen and heard, you’ve got to give them something to talk about.  You need to give them a story about your community.  But, it needs to be a story that is entertaining.  Like Bonny Raitt says in her song – “Let’s give ‘em something to talk about.”

Here are the six secret buttons Mark has identified as proven buzz generators.  I have provided a city slogan example for each, but you could think in terms of a headline in an advertisement or a claim featured on your website.

The Taboo (sex, lies, bathroom humor) Dodge City, KS  – The wickedest little city in America
The Unusual Show Lo, AZ – Named for the turn of a card
The Outrageous Tombstone, AZ – The town too tough to die
The Hilarious McKinleyville, CA – Where horses have the right of way
The Remarkable Roswell, NM – The aliens aren’t the only reason to visit
The Secrets (both kept and revealed) Las Vegas, NV – What happens here, stays here

SECRET 2 – Capture The Media

When the media writes about your community, people tend to believe the information.  This is because the media is generally believed to be credible.  In addition, the media already has the attention of potential capital investors and presumably no incentive to make up false claims.  Media can amplify your community’s message.

When you create buzz in the media, people want to know what it is all about.  There are five frequently written story archetypes you can consider:

  1. The David-and-Goliath story
  2. The unusual or outrageous story
  3. The controversy story
  4. The celebrity story
  5. What’s already hot in the media story

The key is to ensure the stories written about your community are authentic and reflect your community’s brand promise.  This is what helps create the multiplier effect across your other promotion channel choices.  If the messaging is inconsistent, it simply creates noise that makes it even harder to establish the image you want for your community.

SECRET 3 – Advertise For Attention

If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a noise?  If an ad has been placed, but nobody notices it, has your community been advertised?

You need to evaluate advertising placement based on the probability your target audience will actually see your message.  Invest preferentially in media options that are not crowded with other advertisements or messaging.  This will help your communication stand out from the crowd and increase the probability it has an impact.  Break out of traditional media and you are better positioned to create buzz.  It does take more courage to reject the comfortable, but the payoff can be dramatically higher.

SECRET 4 – Climb Buzz Everest

In today’s marketing environment, everybody tends to play follow-the-leader.  Doing what is found to work in other communities and reapplying the tactics in your community is a path that will lead to traditional results.  Traditional results means performing the same as everybody else.  And, that is not buzz worthy.

To successfully climb Buzz Everest, your message needs three key elements:

  1. It has to be associated with something big and newsworthy.
  2. It has to catch on in Middle America.
  3. It has to be fashionable and not related to a fad.

Climbing Buzz Everest requires resourcefulness, follow-through, patience, faith, and courage.  It is important to remember the traditional path is relatively risk-free, but it will only produce average results.  Unless you take a risk, you will never achieve the level of prosperity your community is capable of producing.

SECRET 5 – Discover Your Creativity

Being creative requires you to be open and objective.  Buzz only works when the messaging is authentic and absolutely believable.  Tell it straight.  If people believe you are trying to mislead them, buzz will not happen.

Halfway, Oregon renamed their city to Half.com as a publicity stunt to create global attention on a new internet start-up.  Imagine the courage it took for the Mayor and community leaders to agree to a temporary name change.  The risk was high, but the decision delivered results.  NBC’s Today show broadcast from Half.com, Oregon the day the company launched its website.  It was a bold and memorable move.

Mark suggests there are 5 maxims for discovering your creativity.

  1. Be courageous
  2. Define the problem – Dump the strategy
  3. Understand your consumers firsthand
  4. Swing the bat often
  5. Initiate competition

SECRET 6 – Police Your Product

Your community needs to create a WOW factor in order to create buzz, and it has to continue to WOW people.  You need a community promise that people will go out of their way to talk about.  Without such a promise, buzz is unlikely.

Get your most vocal advocates on the front line to understand how well or poorly your community promise is being delivered.  Strive to objectively see your community through the eyes of potential capital investors, visitors and citizens.  If your community doesn’t consistently deliver against its core promise, then you need to implement procedures and fixes that address the shortcomings.

For additional perspective on social media use in community branding, check out these blog posts and the comments from experts:

Making Sense of Social Media

Making Sense of Social Media – Part Two

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2 Comments so far

  1. Lara Kretler

    May 28, 2010

    Great blog post. These are certainly best practices every business and community manager should be heeding. You’ve made me want to read Buzzmarketing.

    I think Secret 4 – climbing Buzz Everest – is the most challenging. It’s relatively easy to follow the best practices laid down by other successful communities, but to rise above those and come up with something new and exciting – over and over again – is tough.

    By the way, JCSC is my favorite musical too – “Heaven on their minds” may be the best song ever written.

  2. […] value. In addition to the list above, you can read my summaries of some “old school” books – Buzzmarketing, Pyromarketing and Tipping […]

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