The Decline of We-to-You and the Rise of You-to-You

Written by Deirdre Reid on . Posted in Community, Social Media

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I’m not ready to declare the end of traditional marketing. One-way broadcast marketing will continue to serve its purpose with web, print, TV and radio copy. However, with the rise of social media, marketing has forever changed. You-to-you marketing is often more effective than traditional methods.

Unlike me, futurist Dr. James Canton is ready to pull the plug on traditional marketing. He said at the Digital Now conference earlier this year, “The era of traditional me-to-you marketing is ending. Your relevance will be determined by people talking to each other.”

Think about how you make your personal conference decisions. To what degree are you influenced by traditional marketing: save-the-date postcards and other direct mail collateral; blast emails; or magazine and newsletter articles and advertisements? These tactics raise our awareness and provide information, but are they enough to make us click the Register button?

Now, to what degree are you influenced by conversations, tweets, texts, messages and emails about a conference? Or memories of tweets and blog posts published during and after last year’s conference?

Word of mouth and mouse

Russell Sparkman wrote recently about the power of you-to-you or word of mouth marketing:

“The age old adage of sales is that “we buy from our friends.” This was true before the Internet. It’s hyper true today in a world where people are the hyperlinks between a purchase consideration and a purchase.”


Word of mouth still influences our decisions about membership, volunteering, community participation and event attendance. A word from a trusted source will push us off the wishy-washy wall and into a Yes or No decision.

Who does the pushing? Friends and colleagues, but they’re not the only ones. There are others. You’ve heard a lot about them lately: the Influencers. They look just like any other person, but they’ve got a little something extra. We listen to them and trust their judgment and opinion. We like to be around them. They’re smart and helpful. They connect and mentor others. They share and care. They’re social — online, offline or both.

Who are your influencers?

Are they your board members? Maybe not, says Maggie McGary: “While we used to revere people because they were elected officials of an association, now we value those in our field whose ideas or work we respect.”

Lynn Morton calls them “unexpected influencers.” They’re “individuals who may not be active in the organization because that isn’t their style, however they can be more engaged and more influential than a lot of leaders because they participate in a space beyond the organization.”

“Influence has to do with relationships between people – both online and offline,” writes Maddie Grant in an insightful post about influence. Here are a few resources to help you find the influencers in your community:

Listen to your online community. No, do more than that – participate in your online community, wherever it is. Make it your business to find, nurture, empower, and even leverage your influencers and fans. The more you listen to your community, the better you’ll understand them, and the more effective your traditional marketing efforts will be. Be a thought leader, a trusted source of value and a good social citizen, and your fans and influencers will do the rest of your marketing for you.

What do you think? Am I overly confident about you-to-you marketing? What influences your purchasing decisions about memberships, events or other association products and services?


Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer with too many opinions about associations, marketing, beer and pasta.

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Deirdre Reid

Deirdre is a freelance writer, blogger and copywriter. The association community remains her professional home after spending ten years at national and state associations overseeing membership, vendor programs, marketing, publications, chapter relations and more. Away from her laptop, you can find her hiking, doing yoga, cooking new recipes, volunteering at the history museum, or relaxing in a comfy chair with a good book and glass of wine or craft beer.


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