Running a social media strategy and a mobile marketing strategy isn’t all that different from hosting a house party.
Marketers (and their brands) can play the role of any number of guests: the charismatic talker who has a thousand stories for everything but lacks much substance; the aloof plus-one whose mysteriousness is his primary novelty; the fashionable friend who’s always three trends ahead of everyone else at the party (selfies very much included). You can probably think of friends from parties past who fit the behaviors and personalities of content marketing strategies you’ve tried.
And it makes sense that marketing might reflect our behaviors—it is, after all, about connecting with people.
But regardless of whatever party it is you’re thinking about, there is one constant that holds the event together, and on whose shoulders the success or failure of the party squarely rests: the host.
From organizing the gathering and setting the mood, to crafting the guest list, hosts are ultimately the ones who benefit or suffer the most from the fun or boredom of their guests. Thinking in terms of content, so many brands spend their time trying to be an interesting person in a crowded room. But what if your brand focused more on welcoming interesting content and conversation, rather than generating it itself? Forget about being the quirky guest at the party—what happens when a brand positions itself as the host?
Facebook remains the proverbial popular kid when it comes to social. That’s no surprise to anyone. But with Twitter continuing to lose control over what made it unique, the obvious question is, when it comes to being social, where do users prefer to go? According to a Pew Research study, people are flocking to Instagram and Pinterest—this coming as no surprise, given the demand for visual content, Instagram’s close integration with Facebook, and Pinterest’s ever-growing suite of features to support buying.
But there was an unexpected social platform that Pew also revealed was on the rise: Tumblr. The social/blogging/GIF-dumping-ground site has seen impressive growth, now capturing 10 percent of all online adults (up from 6 percent in 2012). This certainly isn’t astronomic, but displays an important third draw for audiences: Instagram corners visual, Pinterest lets users buy, but Tumblr encourages users to discuss.
Twitter doesn’t support discussion in an easily managed or accessed way. Following a series of Tweets between two users, let alone a group of users in conversation, can quickly become difficult to follow. In this, marketers’ goals for the platform are somewhat limited to hoping for retweets and short correspondence (a limitation that Twitter has since tried to remedy, but with minimal success so far). Twitter presents its own, completely viable, mobile marketing strategy—people on mobile are pressed for time and may prefer to engage with concise discussion or long discussion transmitted episodically.
But what marketers have begun to see between the consistent popularity of Facebook and the now growing population of people on Twitter (and perhaps by comparable extension on Reddit, though Reddit’s format focuses more on aggregation than being social) is that many users prefer discussion to simple mechanical interactions: “Likes” and “favorites” aren’t always enough to express content engagement.
So what does it actually look like for brands to move toward a “hosting” mentality on social media, as opposed to other traditional approaches? And further, how does it extend to your mobile marketing strategy?
The key difference between a “hosting” strategy and traditional social media tactics is the direction in which conversation is meant to flow. Typically, brands make a post and attempt to engage people with the post itself—in essence, the brand is saying, “ey, talk to us about this thing we posted.” Hosting, by comparison, is when brands post material that encourages their audience to engage with each other.
Just like a dinner party, hosting is about understanding the topics and moods that move your audience. It’s certainly a move away from trying to astonish people with content of your own that will keep them talking, and it may mean that sometimes your material isn’t being shared all over your social platforms. But when your audience feels encouraged and safe to interact among themselves in your social space, two unique outcomes arise. First, your audience begins to implicitly trust the presence of your brand online, and second, you’ll get an inside look at what your followers are actually interested in or concerned about.
If they play the host, marketers may find the best resources yet to tap into the moods and mindsets of their followers—and in doing so, may be all the better equipped to host all the more “parties” to come.
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