…which is another way of saying Birds of a feather flock together and goes some way to explaining why social networking is such a success, although only for some.
Jeremy Bullmore used the term in 1998 in the context of shared perception of brand personality; the premise being that each and every one of many millions of people gathers a set of feelings that are to some extent autonomous but which further research shows to be closely related, i.e. we like to think we are taking unique decisions for ourselves, but in actual fact we often make them in the context of wanting to be part of a group. It isn’t much fun being out there on your own.
Back in the dark ages of videotape, why did VHS succeed when BetaMax did not when the latter was universally acknowledged to be the better platform? When faced with a decision, the consumer went with the crowd. Similarly, why has LinkedIn grown exponentially while other similar business networks haven’t been able to tap into the same groundswell? And Facebook wasn’t the first social networking site, so how come it is now almost the biggest community on the planet?
There is, perhaps, a single defining factor. The consensus on the examples above is that the winners took time to listen to their users and potential users. They created entry points which were attractive, laid out their wares, watched to see how their consumers behaved and tweaked their offering accordingly, and keep on tweaking it (although in VHS’s case a seismic shift in technology eventually put paid to their dominance) to make it less and less attractive to go elsewhere.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes should take note. There isn’t a marketing text book, essay or lecture today that isn’t trying to hammer home the message of listening:
How you and your organisation do this is up to you. But do it you must. And the first step has to be that you engage your clients, customers, partners and potential audience in a conversation where you can hear what they are saying about you, your products, your competitors, your competitors products etc. etc. You need to find where they are having these conversations and join in, you need to be part of the People-Driven Economy which exists in social networks because if you aren’t someone else who does what you do is.
The choice is no longer whether or not you and your organisation embrace social media, the choice is how successfully you do it.