Social Media Case Studies, Book Reviews

The Power of Consumer Choice Drives Social Media Importance

I love the strategy of Seth Godin’s Domino Project, which is reinventing the publishing business by making hard cover books easier to find, remember, and digest (the average Domino book contains fewer than 100 pages).

We Are All WeirdThe most recent Domino book to be published was by Godin himself, and unfortunately I didn’t find it particularly good. Called We Are All Weird, it’s a somewhat haphazard treatise on the rise of the individual, and the notion that modern society enables us to embrace our specific proclivities like never before. It shouts not only the benefits of being unique, but that businesses must inexorably retool to serve this new “weirdness” because the “mass” market has essentially disappeared.

I don’t disagree with the premise, but We Are All Weird reads like it was written in a weekend, and is primarily a mashup of the preferable The Long Tail and The Paradox of Choice with a heavy dose of Godin one-liners. It also has a bit of “I’m in Manhattan, surrounded by an abundance of interesting, globally-inspired options. Ain’t that grand?” elitism that I suspect won’t be fully clenched to the bosom of flyover state marketers.

For a more considered, practical book on niches and the granularity of modern business, I recommend Kelly McDonald’s How to Market to People Not Like You.

Despite the fact that I didn’t love We Are All Weird on the whole, there are two passages that I positively adore, and that have substantial social media relevance.

On page 34, Godin writes:

“If you want to sell $900 handmade rifles to obsessive collectors, the easiest way to grow your sales is to grow the market of obsessive rifle collectors. That means that marketers evangelize this particular weirdness to those who might be entranced by it.”

This is precisely the way companies need to think about their social media initiatives, most especially anything in the brand community (Facebook and otherwise) category. The objective isn’t to breed new customers, but rather to increase the temperature of current customers from luke warm to a roiling boil. This deepens interest, builds loyalty, and creates advocacy – turning customers into volunteer marketers.

Stop talking about your products and services as objects and items, and talk more about who and how those products and services are used to do amazing things. Build a culture of accomplishment around your offerings, rather than a culture of availability.

On page 49 he writes:

“As soon as consumers enter the marketplace, they gain power, because power comes from choice. Consumer power is a brand new force, and it’s growing exponentially as a result of more affluence running in parallel with more choice.”

This is so dead-on it’s scary, and it’s a topic that’s not covered nearly enough. I’d love to see a whole book about this. What drives social media is the fact that modern consumers care about what they buy and from whom enough to investigate, interact, and associate with brands. Did we want to “engage” with Kellog’s in 1975? Of course not. Why bother? When you only have a small number of choices and those choice are fundamentally undifferentiated, your selection of one vs the others says NOTHING about your tastes or preferences.

We want to engage with brands today not because doing so is fundamentally pleasurable or advantageous, but because doing so sends social signals about us that we deem important.

The ability to choose drives the desire to promote that selection (and is at the root of Facebook’s new applications system that will have us clicking “drank” “ate” “read” and “watched” buttons soon).

Towards the end, Godin talks about the billions of information channels now available, and our ability to customize our news and content precisely to our own selections. This is a concept that fascinates me, and I’m not at all sure it’s a net benefit to society that we can now consume “news” that fits 100% with whatever belief system we choose to support.

I wrote about that a while ago here “Why Blogs Kill Dissent“.

I don’t suspect you’ll love We Are All Weird, but I may be wrong. And there’s definitely worse ways to spend an hour and $16. (disclosure: I did not buy this book. Domino sends me all of their releases for review. links are affiliate).