I now have a copy of Clay Shirky’s book, “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations,” in my hot little hands. This book can help you better understand how and why new media communication tools are working. I’ll try to add some thoughts from the book as I read through it.
For starters, let’s look at a statement in chapter one, “. . . forming groups has gotten a lot easier. To put it in economic terms, the costs incurred by creating a new group or joining an existing one have fallen in recent years, and not just by a little bit. They have collapsed.”
Clay’s talking about groups. Any kind of group. Could be farmers. Could be farmers who love green tractors. Could be any group of people you can imagine. Until recently it wasn’t easy or inexpensive to belong to groups much less create and manage them. I suppose you could think of the listeners to a local radio station as a group. But how much does it cost to buy an FCC license and transmit your signal? More than you and I have. Been there, done that.
Today though, using new media tools like blogging or podcasting, which includes social networks like Facebook, I dare say most people can afford to create their own group and have global reach. This is allowing many more groups to exist. It also means companies are having to re-think how they get their message out since there are many new and different channels to do so. It also means they can’t apply the same measurement standards to the tactics they’re using. If they do then they’ll find themselves stuck in the same old, same old and wonder why others are getting ahead of them.
There was a great AP story out last week that focused on how food companies are targeting the writers of niche blogs. It helps illustrate how important this new proliferation of “groups” is becoming. Here’s an excerpt with my own highlighting added:
One blog with a couple of thousand daily readers may not have a huge impact, but marketers can easily reach several such blogs with little effort, said Debbie Weil, a corporate blogging consultant based in Washington. “Companies are paying attention to the concept of lots and lots of tiny little markets. Added up, it’s significant,” Weil said.
The single-minded focus of blogs may be in some ways more valuable than traditional marketing since it’s easier to target an audience, said Daniel Taylor, a senior analyst of digital advertising and marketing for the Yankee Group.
These blogs usually spring from personal obsessions. Abi Jones, for example, started Heat-EatReview.com after nuking countless frozen meals for lunch at the office. Comparing notes with co-workers, she realized there were no resources for people interested in learning about the newest products in the freezer aisle.
Food blogs “may not have the mass reach, but it’s a more engaged, specific audience,” said Greg Zimprich, a spokesman for General Mills Inc. “Their readers are going to care a lot more about a product of ours.”
I know it’s not easy shifting the paradigm of the mass audience to one of multiple niche audiences but think about the value of your investment. I suggest that investing fewer dollars to reach the most motivated or engaged customers may have a greater return that spending huge amounts of money, most of which is reaching people who aren’t interested in your product or message.