Build A Campfire: How To Succeed On Social Media

Today the campfire is called a computer or a television … Drama goes back to the beginning of civilization around the campfire, where the tribe comes together, and they say, “My God, did you see what blah blah did with that mountain lion today?” And the other guy says, “I’ll tell you one better than that.” … [W}e tell stories that unite the tribe. We reinforce our tribal unity. We say, this is how we do things here.
David Mamet,

If the computer is the new campfire, social media is the biggest campfire ever built.

Most companies invest a lot of money in social media because they know they have to. But, few know what to do with it.

What you should do is much clearer when you realize that social media is only the result of new technology, it’s not a new behavior. The tools have changed; humans have remained the same.

Customers come to your social media because they want to belong to something they believe you’re providing. They want to hear stories from like-minded people. They want to tell their own stories—stories that involve them and your brand.

But before they can belong, they need to know the rules: What does this group really stand for? What does belonging look like? What does it take to belong?

For them to know the rules, you need to know the rules. And, these rules stem from core values. Your core values inform customers what the brand stands for and what behaviors it encourages and expects, not only from employees but also from customers: a company that wants to do good in the world expects its customers to want to do the same.

Like any group, there will always be insiders and outsiders. Not every brand is for everyone. Not everyone wants to behave according to your values. And, that’s okay: Today, no brand has 100% appeal. Heinz ketchup is no longer the only option: there’s Annie’s, Trader Joe’s, Sir Kensington’s, and some people even prefer to make their own.

The problem is most businesses don’t have a strong set of core values. Many believe they do, but they’re usually not clear, not differentiating, and, in most cases, are little more than a list of words on a wall or buried in a corporate handbook that was during a corporate retreat or by an overpaid consultant. These businesses look at core values as outcomes rather than what they really are: behaviors that need to be reinforced and acted on constantly, every day, throughout the organization.

Without these living values, it’s impossible to know what you stand for or how you expect people to behave. And, if you don’t know, how can the social media manager—especially an outsourced one—know how to behave online or what behavior to encourage? They have no rules. At best, they just put up gimmicky posts and clever responses. At worst, they either don’t respond or copy and paste corporate gobbledygook.

A lack of rules creates chaos and confusion. This is why we see things like car dealerships asking people what they’re looking forward to eating this weekend.

The social media campfire gives you the greatest opportunity you could have: people engaging you because they want to be part of the tribe. They want you to help make them the heroes in their own stories: they’re asking you to market to them in a meaningful way. What more could you ask for?

Find your core values. Figure out your rules. Build a campfire. Participate.

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