Have you seen the 2012 Audi R8? No? Do you want to? Here.
Now that’s just a ridiculous car. It looks fast. I’ve never owned an Audi, but if I did, I’d hope it was the R8. I’d get a lot of speeding tickets. I mean, how could you not? “I’m sorry, officer. You see, I’m driving this car. You understand, right?”
How do I know about the R8? I saw one in a Target parking lot the other day. I didn’t see a TV commercial or hear a radio spot for a weekend “sales event.” (Really? An event? An event is something special, not something that happens every damn weekend.)
I didn’t know the car existed until I saw it, and it was extraordinary. When I got home I wanted to know more so I went to the Web site and began drooling. Then I Googled “what’s the R8 like to drive?” I really did. I wonder if the search engine specialists have optimized content for that phrase. I came upon several reviews from auto magazine Web sites like Autoweek.
Then I thought, “What’s it really like to drive?” I determined then and there that if I ever found another one in a Target parking lot, I would sit in my car and wait until the owner exited the store with his $300 toothbrush—I mean, that’s all he intended to buy in the first place—and walk up and say, “I’m sorry to bother you, but seriously, man. What’s it like to drive that car?” And you know what? I bet we’d spend the next 20 minutes talking about what it’s really like to drive that car. At that very moment, I will have moved from a non-believer to a total, complete believer. I believe in the Audi R8.
So what happened here? Was that advertising? Was that marketing? Or was that simply a car manufacturer making a product so extraordinary that its owner can’t wait to talk about it? Perhaps I shouldn’t have used this example. Fact is, we’re not all Audi R8s. That toothbrush is not an Audi R8, and I seriously doubt if anyone has ever said, “Hey, how do you like that toothbrush? Can I take yours for a test drive?” But many of you truly do lead extraordinary brands, and when you do, you have an incredible opportunity at your finger tips that allows you to harness the tipping-point power of advocacy.
Any bells going off? Social media, perhaps? When I ask marketing executives if classic word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of consumer persuasion, most nod in agreement. Yet, when I ask if there’s a formal plan to encourage and make word-of-mouth an embedded if not critical component, many of them indicate they do not. They hope and maybe even expect it’s happening. As I’ve said many times, I’m not a big fan of hoping for something to happen when my career is attached to that something happening. When I ask these same leaders if they have a Facebook presence, they often say they do. Or they think they do. Someone’s doing something on Facebook.
We’re at a nexus where we finally put a dagger in the idea that social media is an actual media broadcast channel. It is not. And treating it as one has us in the wrong mentality. Facebook, online forums (like car enthusiasts sites), LinkedIn, and many other sites are places of critical conversation, celebration, critique, and advocacy. Without a plan around these communities, brands become terrified of the “critique” element of social media, and go into corporate fetal positions. They fire up their crisis management PR people rather than their product managers. What do I mean by that? For example, when Apple customers flood message boards with complaints about a new operating system or an iPhone feature, they’re complaining not because they hate Apple—they adore Apple so much they want them to be better. And Apple listens. Do you think Apple is afraid of critique? Those millions of customers are essentially giving them the road map to future success.
This is the right mentality around social. You as a leader of a brand have an incredible opportunity to be more excellent, simply by allowing your customers to make you better. Publicly. You also have the opportunity—no, the responsibility—to provide platforms for your brand advocates to tell their stories loud and clearly. They’ll do this on their own, mind you. But why not put plans and platforms in place to make it easier? That, dear readers, is what social media is all about. Social media is not a shiny new place to put your product videos. But it is most likely the best place for your advocates to put their product videos.
Moving a mental picture of social media from broadcast channel to advocacy channel is the great leap. Doing so will make your life a heckuva lot easier.
So. Will I buy the Audi R8? Here’s the deal: If this blog post was so compelling to you, so likely to earn you millions of new customers and hit all of your revenue targets, then by all means, please send a check for $186,000 to Andrew Eklund, c/o Ciceron, 126 N. 3rd St., Suite 309, Minneapolis, MN, 55401. I will forever advocate for whatever it is you sell. All day.