“On social media, what works for Shakira backfires for Crest and Clorox.” -Douglas Holt
We’ve heard it all before. What makes one company successful on social media, completely fails for another. Some startups are able to build multi-million dollar businesses on Facebook alone; while established brand name companies struggle to drive engagement on their FB pages.
But why is that? The answer is “crowdculture” as coined by Douglas Holt in a recent HBR article.
Crowdcultures have become the latest challenge for strategic marketers and social leaders; and are the result of earned social media domination (as opposed to owned or paid social). Long gone are the days of perfectly-crafted and branded marketing content. In fact, Holt boldly states that “branded content is dead.”
And we at Tracx couldn’t agree with him more. We’ve also witnessed how today’s social media users recoil from brand-centric messages pushed at them from companies they have no interest in hearing from.
Today it’s all about how you tap into your audience and customer base without using interruptive messaging or canned uploads. There’s an art and a science to balancing earned, owned, and paid social media efforts.
Social users not only expect, but demand, tailored messages and interactions based on their preferences, behaviors, and the content they’re putting out there on multiple networks. Everything must speak directly to your crowd, tribe, or subculture’s ideologies and preferences. If it doesn’t, it will fall on deaf social ears.
What exactly is “crowdculture”?
Douglas Holt describes the concept of crowdculture as “…communities of people gathering around various niche topics to discuss, innovate, and create social/cultural movements.’ These people have been on the outside fringes of society and before social media, they met locally. With the rise of social media, these niche groups finally had a place to collectively meet and speak freely about these topics. As this continued to evolve, communities were created around subcultures and new ideas, theories, and practices were coming out at a faster rate than ever before.
So, we know that there are conversations happening around any topic you could possibly imagine, but where are they on social media and how can brands find and take advantage of them?
To start you need to embrace a listen-first strategy. Many companies are using social listening tools to dive deeper into these communities and subcultures to hear what’s trending on earned media searches. By using a deep listening tool (and Tracx is the only one that captures the full social conversation on earned), you can see exactly where your communities are, what they’re talking about, and find any mentions that might be out there. Depending on the industry, some of these subcultures/communities might not be on traditional social media channels like Facebook or Twitter. Blogs and forums can be a very hot spot for conversation, but if you aren’t listening to them, you won’t even know they are out there.
Brands like Crossfit have built their businesses on crowdculture. Crossfit became a phenomenon because they tapped into a group of people (“subculture”) who felt isolated working out in traditional gyms and were looking for a stronger community experience through their workouts. They tapped into this subculture through social listening on earned media — these folks were already actively voicing their frustrations and desires. Crossfit joined the social conversations and built a community-based workout approach that spread like wildfire through social and word-of mouth; quickly becoming a national sensation.
BarkBox is another great example of a company built entirely on the crowdculture of dog-lovers. They found their niche market of dog-lovers on Facebook and Instagram and were able to gain massive traction by posting comedic content, videos, and photos of dogs. They also forage earned media and user generated content over all networks and from all sources, further inspiring and engaging dog-lovers with awesome posts. Today they have 6 million followers on Instagram and 2 million likes on Facebook.
You can also find brands diving into crowdculture through brand ambassadors and influencers like celebrities and public figures. This is a big part of understanding your crowdcultures.
Brands can jump on the bandwagon by focusing intently on crowdculture and the conversation. But, first you need to know where the conversation is happening and what cultures are talking about. Once you have that information, it’s a great opportunity to start creating a social strategy attractive to your subcultures.